Editions : July-September 2014


For Indonesia’s Aceh province, the 2014 general elections were noteworthy as a measure of the transformation of former rebels into rulers. Nine years ago, giving the Free Aceh Movement (Gerakan Aceh Merdeka, or GAM) a stake in the political process proved to be the key to ending its three-decade insurgency against the Indonesian government. The guerrillas agreed to lay down their arms and accept enhanced autonomy in exchange for, among other things, the right to form a local political party in Aceh. Partai Aceh, formed by the now-defunct GAM in 2008, has dominated Acehnese politics ever since.

The 2014 legislative election results, however, show that its popularity is waning, almost certainly because its elected officials have performed poorly. One question hanging in the air is whether voting them out of power altogether in a future election could jeopardize the peace.

The April 9 polls were the second legislative contest for Partai Aceh. During the 2009 elections, it rolled to victory with numbers only imaginable after a period of prolonged conflict when a population is finally allowed to express support for its fighters at the ballot box. In several districts, the party won more than 70 percent of the vote. It ended up winning 33 of the 69 seats in the provincial legislature, and through alliances controlled nine more. Partai Aceh did even better in the races for district council seats along the province’s populous east coast, where many of its sympathizers had already been elected as district chiefs.

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