The Dynamics of Violent Conflicts in Aceh’s 2017 Local Elections

Mainstream national media have almost forgotten about local elections in Aceh Province, even though Aceh, alongside with West Papua, is two of many electoral areas with high Election Susceptibility-to-Violence Index (IKP).

There are many physical violence cases in Aceh. According to the investigation conducted by the Election Monitoring Body (Bawaslu) of Aceh and Association for Elections and Democracy (Perludem), there are 11 physical violence cases in 2006, 91 cases in 2009, and 57 cases in 2012. This year, there have already been 26 recorded cases. Central Bawaslu has announced that 9.592 Polling Centers in Aceh are susceptible to violence.

During a public discussion titled “Violence Cases in Local Elections in Special Areas”, the Executive Director of Perludem, Titi Anggraini, says, the top three areas with highest number of violence are East Aceh, North Aceh, and Pidie. A staff from the Observation Division of Central Bawaslu, Abdul Goffur, says Bireun is also an area in Aceh with lots of violent conflicts.

“Many people are worry about local elections in Aceh. Especially in North Aceh, Bireun, and East Aceh. These three areas were once the basis for Free Aceh Movement’s (GAM) activity,” says Abdul Goffur, in Jakarta (02/09).

This year, there are six types of violence that are considered to be very likely to occur during the voting day, they are: logistics burning, destroying volunteer posts, intimidation, shooting, grenade bombing, and fighting between armed militias.

In East Aceh, many violent conflicts are happened during preparation phase. The conflicts are mostly inter-connected with each other as an act of revenge. In some cases, the main perpetrator of the conflict is the same person. In Pidie, violent conflicts mostly happen during campaign period.

“Intimidations in Aceh Local Election are somewhat subtle, but it’s quite clear. I saw a poster once which said: ‘So you want to preserve peace in Aceh? Then You know who to vote for for the next election’,” says Titi.

Out of 26 violent cases in Aceh Local Election of 2017, in 40 percent of the cases there are members of the Aceh National Party (PNA) involved either as perpetrator or victim, in 27 percent there are members of Aceh Party (PA) involved, in 23 percent the perpetrators are unidentified, in 4 percent there are members of the Election Management Body (EMB) involved, in 2 percent there are members of campaign team of candidate Nurcholis-Suryanto involved, another 2 percent involving members of campaign team of candidate Tarmizi-Machsalmina, 1 percent involving members of campaign team of Ruslan-Djamaludin, and another 1 percent involving members of Golkar Party.

“40 percent of cases are between members of PNA and unidentified persons, 37 percent are between PNA and PA. Majority of cases occurred between 9 PM and midnight,” says Titi.

Some Highlights on Seven Violent Cases in Aceh Local Election of 2017

There are 7 out of total 26 violent cases that I would like to highlight in this article. First, the case of stabbing by an unidentified person to a member of Tarmizi Karim Volunteer Group, Abdul Muthaleb, in Gampoeng Cot Usie on May 28th 2016. Abdul received a stab wound on his back.

Second, a case of shooting committed by unidentified person targeting members of campaign team of regent candidate in East Aceh from PA, Ridwan Usman, in Gampong Kuala Peudawa Puntong, Sub-District of Idi Rayeuk, on August 5th 2016. Thankfully, this incident does not result in any casualty.

Third, a case of beatings received by the Chief of Polling Committee of East Aceh, Mustafa bin Abdullah, by members of campaign team of a regent candidate, Ridwan Abubakar, on August 30th 2016. The motive of the beating is because Ridwan’s campaign team members think Mustafa was biased against other candidate during the verification process of voters ID.

Foruth, a case of beatings by the Chairperson of Independent Election Commission (KIP) of Bener Meriah, Iwan Kurnia, towards a member of KIP, Anwar Hidayat, on September 7th 2016. At that time, Anwar refused to provide Iwan with data on Polling Center Officers.

Fifth, a case of brawl between members of PA and Golkar Party in the Regency of Aceh Jaya on November 3rd 2016. The brawl started when each camp impair campaign attributes and properties of other camp.

Sixth, a case of shooting with automatic rifles towards the campaign team of candidate Irwandi Yusuf-Nova Iriansyah by unidentified persons in Pidie on November 12th 2016.

Seventh, a case of grenade bombing at the house of the campaign team of candidate Rusli Saleh-T. Islah in Bener Meriah by unidentified person on November 14th 2016.

Bawaslu and Police Force Need to Maximize Security and Monitoring

Compared to the previous local election, the Aceh Local Election this year is relatively more peaceful. There is at least no fatalities like in 2012 Local Elections where there were two ex-GAM combatant died. Many conflicts in this year’s election are also resolved peacefully.

However, we are hoping Bawaslu and the Police Force will maximize their effort to maintain security few days before the election day. This is because electoral violations are mostly increasing during the quiet period of campaigning, the polling day, and the announcement of election result. The law and regulations should be firmly upheld, and citizens should be encouraged to report any violation they may find during that period. Therefore, it is important for Bawaslu and the Police to provide extra protection for whistleblowers.

“In Aceh and Papua, whistleblowers can suddenly go missing. Bawaslu and the Police Force should protect them, so they are not afraid to report violation,” says Titi.