EU Monitors Ready for Aceh Vote

BANDA ACEH ~ A European Union delegation visiting Aceh said this week the EU was ready to send electoral observers to the province’s poll next month.

“I think observers are important to monitor elections in Aceh, to support a sustainable peace process,” said EU parliamentarian Hartmut Nassauer, on a visit with other members of the European parliament and Commission.

“We hope that (upcoming) elections in Aceh will be held in fair, free and without intimidation and hope that police can secure the process of election in the province,” he told reporters.

The deal between Aceh rebels and Jakarta – which was reached in the aftermath of the 2004 Asian tsunami – ended nearly three decades of separatist conflict that cost around 15,000 lives.

It brought former rebels into power in local government and allowed the establishment of provincial political parties, but unemployment is high and foreign aid money is running out after the tsunami rebuilding effort.

The province on the northern tip of Sumatra island saw a spate of low-level political and criminal violence, including kidnappings, shootings and grenade attacks on Aceh’s party offices.

Aceh will choose a new provincial parliament on April 9, when legislative elections are held across Indonesia.

“The (European) Commission has said that we are ready to send observers to Aceh but we’re still waiting for the invitation from the (Indonesian) government,” Nassauer added.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said during a recent visit to Aceh that foreign monitors would be allowed into the province to observe the polls and report on any intimidation or violence.

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