Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Stunning vote heralds new era for Aceh

It appears a former rebel leader gaoled by Jakarta has won a surprise victory in the first democratic elections for governor of Indonesia's Aceh province. Irwandi Yusuf, a former spokesman for the Free Aceh Movement (GAM), has won 39 percent of the vote.

Irwandi Yusuf is hoping for co-operation with the Indonesian military.. not confrontation as in the past.

The director of the group which conducted a sample quick count, Denny Januar Ali of LSI (Indonesia Survey Institute) has told AFP: "I'm certain there will not be a second round because it's a win by a large amount. " A second sample by election monitors Jurdil Aceh projected Yusuf to win with 38.57 percent of the vote, and an estimated turnout of 85 percent. Yusuf said the result, if confirmed, was a dream come true for the Acehnese, who flocked to vote in elections they hope will cement the region's path to peace after three decades of war. "This is the dream of the Acehnese people being fulfilled. They want change in all aspects of life and governance," he told reporters. "It will be hard work for me, it is not easy to fulfil. Aceh in the future will be kind of a wild horse, because there are so many things to do. We need cooperation from all elements of Acehnese society, and most importantly with the Acehnese legislators," he said. Yusuf said cooperation with Jakarta would be "as normal" and did not think there would be a problem with the military. He was jailed in 2003 for rebellion, but escaped when the tsunami struck.

Read more about Aceh in my book Running Amok

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