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Indonesia hopes for Aceh elections in August JAKARTA - Elections in Indonesia's volatile Aceh province may be held in August if the parliament passes a bill on governing the region by next month, Vice President Jusuf Kalla said on Sunday. Elections are a key component of a landmark Finnish-brokered peace pact signed between Indonesia and the separatist Free Aceh Movement (GAM) last year.

According to the deal that ended decades of conflict, Indonesia was to pass a bill on governing the province by March 31, paving the way for the first direct gubernatorial elections in April. But the Indonesian parliament missed the deadline. "If the Aceh government bill is passed in May, then the local election will be set in August," Kalla told reporters after a meeting with European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana.

"The AMM may also be extended. We plan to extend it up to two months to achieve its task and it will end when the election is complete," he said referring to the Aceh Monitoring Mission (AMM). Finland, where the deal was signed, and other EU nations have been key in ensuring the truce was reached and maintained, including leading a mission to monitor implementation on the ground.

Before Kalla's comments the EU's Solana, who wraps up a three-day visit to Indonesia on Sunday, had expressed hope that the legislation would be approved by the end of the summer. Lawmakers say delays were necessary to defuse nationalistic fears the bill would be a gateway for resource-rich Aceh to split from Indonesia, but debates on the draft's wide-ranging content are still under way.

"I got the impression from the government that they don't see any basic difficulties in parliament ... Parliament is in recess but people continue to work on the law," said Solana."It could be by the end of the summer," he said when asked when he expected the bill to be passed, adding that the EU would "accompany the process until the end".

During his visit to Indonesia, Solana met with government officials and leaders of the Aceh rebel group GAM, who returned to Aceh this month after decades abroad to help implement the peace deal signed last year. The Helsinki truce ending three decades of war between Indonesian security forces and GAM came after the latter dropped their insistence on an independent Aceh.

One of the concessions in exchange called for Indonesia to pass laws giving Aceh control of most of its affairs and former GAM rebels a chance to form a local political party to contest in direct elections. Under the peace deal that ended decades of conflict in Aceh, the bill would have regulated Aceh's first direct gubernatorial elections in April 2006 but involved parties agreed to move the elections to June instead. EU monitors are supposed to stay until the end of the polls.

GAM and Indonesia's government signed the peace deal after months of negotiations spurred by the December 2004 tsunami that left around 170,000 Acehnese dead or missing.


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Posted in Aceh conflict @ 24 April 2006 07:14 CET by Jeroen · 'Blog' RSS feed · permalink






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