Aceh looks set to elect a new governor after the incumbent was dumped by his party amid multiple claims of corruption in the Shariah Law province.
Indonesia’s most conservative province was granted special autonomy status as part of a 2005 peace pact that ended a three-decades-old separatist insurgency.
Many ex-combatants have joined either the Aceh Party (PA) or the Aceh National Party (PNA), which are now competing in the Feb. 15 election. Of the six governor candidates, four are ex-combatants.
Zaini Abdullah, the incumbent is now running as an independent after losing the backing of the Aceh Party, whose banner he ran under in the previous election. He is not expected to win a second term.
The party now supports Abdullah’s former deputy, Muzakir Manaf.
According to Titi Anggraini, director of the Association for Elections and Democracy (Perludem), Aceh, which will also elect 20 new district heads and mayors has had the highest rate of violence ahead of local elections taking place in other areas in Indonesia.
At least, 26 attacks, including shooting and grenade attacks, have taken place since May last year.
"Much of the violence has been linked to both provincial and district level elections," she said.
Aceh elections were also taking place amid various corruption allegations, including one claiming unfair distribution of a central government fund provided annually to the special autonomous region.
Alfian, coordinator of Aceh’s Transparency Society said the funding — amounting to about 8 trillion rupiah (about US$600 million) — has no significant impact on the people.
"Unemployment and poverty in Aceh remains above the national average. The number of poor people in Aceh is 19 percent, compared to 13 percent nationally. Likewise, unemployment, is at 8 percent or above, while nationwide its only 7 percent," he said.
"I think, if the special autonomy fund was properly distributed to the 5.2 million people in Aceh, there would be no more poor people," said Alfian.
Bustami Afan, a villager in Mee Pangwa village on Pidie Jaya district said there’s been no significant change since Abdullah came to power.
"We chose him because he promised to give 1 million rupiah per household each month. But, we didn’t get this. We hear many cases of corruption," he said.
He said his big hope for the election will be to get a "governor who will put our needs above his own personal interest."
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