EU Monitors Arrive in Aceh Ahead of Elections

BANDA ACEH, Aceh ~ A team of EU election monitors is due to arrive in Aceh to monitor elections across the province, the mission’s deputy chief said.

The 30 monitors from the EU Election Observation Mission would be the second batch in Aceh after a team of eight monitors arrived on October 31, Antonio Reis said on Wednesday.

Under a peace pact signed between separatist rebels and the central government, Aceh will for the first time directly elect its governor and vice governor, as well as district leaders, in the polls on December 11.

The peace pact stipulated the presence of foreign observers.

About 80 EU monitors were to come before the elections, Reis said. The event would be monitored until January 10, he added.

“One week before D-day, another 45 additional monitors from the EU will arrive. Those will be the short-time monitors, who will only be on duty for about one week in Aceh,” Reis said.

He said it was the first time EU monitors had been deployed for non-national elections.

“This is a clear proof that the Aceh 2006 elections is a very crucial point in the peace process,” he said.

Quoting the head of the mission, Glyn Ford, Reis said what was important was not who won.

“Much more important for us is that the loser in this elections can be certain that their defeat is because they had not enough popular support, not because of frauds or money politics,” he said.

He said the mission planned to issue an initial general statement on how the electoral process had gone. The final statement would be made one month after polling day.

The head of the working group on monitoring of the Aceh Electoral Commission, Ikhwanussufa, said that the commission had so far issued accreditation to four electoral monitoring organizations. The EU mission was the only one from overseas so far.

Three local monitoring groups would deploy some 5,000 personnel during the electoral process, he added.

The Foreign Ministry, he said, had already issued recommendations for two other foreign organizations – the International Republican Institute and the Asian Network for Free Elections, which would each deploy personnel.

The Aceh peace pact was spurred on by the devastating 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami that lashed Aceh’s coastlines, killing about 168,000 people and forcing both sides to reassess their priorities at the negotiating table.

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