Electoral violence is unlikely in the upcoming Indonesia general elections, analysts from the International Crisis Group say, but warn against complacency over simmering ethnic, separatist and religious tensions in the world’s most populous Muslim country.
"I don't really see any situation in Indonesia getting out of control," said Sidney Jones, the senior adviser for the International Crisis Group's Asia program.
This week, the International Crisis Group issued a report about tensions in Aceh province leading up to the April 9 legislative elections which will determine who can run for president in July.
Tensions are running high in Aceh, though unlikely to escalate into violence. The report concluded that hostility between the Free Aceh Movement and the Indonesian military "is at its highest point since the peace deal in 2005, although there is little danger that low-level pre-election violence will escalate."
The movement's political party, Partai Aceh, is expected to overwhelmingly win in Aceh, a semi-autonomous region on the Indonesian island of Sumatra.
According to Jones, the Indonesian military is suspicious that the Free Aceh Movement "is still committed to independence and that a big victory for Partai Aceh ... could threaten the unity of the republic."
Besides the unrest in Aceh, unrest in resource-rich province of Papua is another source of concern. Indonesian authorities had asked the separatist movement’s exiled leader, Nicolas Jouwe, 85, to return, hoping to begin discussions on a possible settlement of the decades-old conflict. However, his return the week before prompted protests against his willingness to negotiate with the government.
Jouwe has since made statements that appear contradictory; he was quoted in a government statement as saying that separatist fighters should help “rebuild Papua within the frame of the unitary republic of Indonesia,”, while seeming to refer to Papua and Indonesia as 2 separate countries in another news conference, saying “We are close nations,” he said, “We cannot live without considering each other”.
The current president, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, faces parliamentary elections on April 9 and a presidential election in July. He was elected in 2004 on a platform of ending the long separatist struggles in Papua and the northern province of Aceh. His administration is increasingly considering a settlement similar to the one reached with Aceh in 2005.
CNN, Violence unlikely to mar Indonesia election, analyst says, arc26 M h 2009, http://edition.cnn.com/2009/WORLD/asiapcf/03/26/indonesia.election.secur...
NY Times, Rebel’s Return Stirs Tensions in Indonesia, 25 March 2009, http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/26/world/asia/26indo.html?ref=world