November 24 kick-started the campaigns for landmark elections in Aceh province aimed at solidifying the peace deal signed in Finland last year in the aftermath of the tsunami and civil war that took some 15,000 lives.
The December 11 elections will decide Aceh's governor and his deputy, as well as 19 regents and mayors across the province. It has also raised fears of violence especially since two former rebels are running on rival tickets, but the candidates have signed a declaration not to use violence or intimidation.
In further review of Aceh’s post-tsunami recovery process, the Jakarta Post also noted the significant role of women in re-boosting the economy, especially in the district of Panga. As one of the "black" zones in the province, where armed conflict between the Indonesian military and the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) was common, women take on the task of raising children and earning a living while men are on the run. As a result, women are often the key recipients of foreign aid.
Elsewhere in review of the country’s governance practices, analysts observed that political parties have failed in their function as training grounds for future leaders of the country and instead serve only as power brokers.
Saiful Mujani of the Indonesian Research Institute (LSI) said the fact that the country's established figures had no serious opposition showed that political parties had failed to produce and prepare new leaders. Mujani also raised the example of past survey responses opting only for famous figures over young and prospective politicians.
Candidates are also nominated on the basis of their public appeal and regardless of their quality. "The same is true in local elections. Political parties act merely as agents which promote any candidate from any political affiliation. We even see members of certain parties being nominated by rival parties," Saiful said.
National Mandate Party’s (PAN) member and legislator Muhamad Najib concurred with Saiful’s opinion and added that "we are still busy with Javanese-non Javanese, civilian-military, businessman-politician divisions, criteria that have little to do with the interests of our nation”.
Apart from party reinvigoration, female lawmakers have also called for a 30 percent quota for women representatives in legislative bodies nationwide, where women currently only hold 11.6 percent of the 550 seats in the current House of Representatives. Speaking at a two-day Caucus of Women Legislators meeting held inJakarta, activists argued the quota would strengthen women's political bargaining positions in regional and national parliaments.
Golkar Party legislator Eka Komariah criticized that despite many parties mentioning affirmative action in their campaigns, the recent laws on elections and on political parties failed to make quotas mandatory for women, and which is in part a result of the country's patriarchal culture and the poor positions of most women in the country.
Golkar president, Jusuf Kalla, said in response that the quota issue was "just a technical matter", because most people already realized the importance of women in politics. He had also proposed a system enabling candidates to qualify by winning a smaller number of votes, which he said would have made it "easier" for women to win. But he mentioned that there was "no way" a 30 percent quota for women could be reached under the current system.
A recent visit to Indonesia by European parliamentary delegation provided an external assessment as part of the third European-Indonesia Inter-parliamentary Meeting, and noted that the implementation of sharia-style laws in several regions in the country could negatively affect foreign investment and hurt Indonesia's international relations.
The head of the eight-member group, Hartmut Nassauer, mentioned in particular that religious laws could discriminate against non-Muslims, isolate Indonesia from other nations and create frictions.
Thus far, Aceh is the only province that has applied sharia-influenced precepts in its local bylaws, while several regions in other provinces have issued regulations on public conduct, which have been criticized for being discriminatory to women.
Campaigning kicks of in landmark elections in tsunami-ravaged Aceh province (Jakarta Post, 25 November 2006)
Acehnese women put economy back on track (Jakarta Post, 25 November 2006)
Parties seen as mere power brokers (Jakarta Post, 25 November 2006)
Sharia laws could hurt investment, EU MPs say (Jakarta Post, 25 November 2006)
Make 30 percent quota mandatory, says women's caucus (Jakarta Post, 25 November 2006)