Wednesday, December 8, 2010

INTERNATIONAL CRISIS GROUP - NEW REPORT Indonesia: Preventing Violence in Local Elections

Jakarta/Brussels. The government of Indonesia needs to strengthen the management of local elections in order to minimise the risk of violence.

Indonesia: Preventing Violence in Local Elections,* the latest report from the International Crisis Group, examines cases of violence in the 2010 local elections in Indonesia and predicts more trouble in similar races in the future if simple flaws in electoral organisation continue to be ignored. The report proposes to minimise future violence by focusing on coordination and communication, the simplification of election rules, and increased vigilance by electoral and security institutions. Without stronger supervision and accountability for violating the rules, there is a risk that candidates, especially incumbents, will be tempted to do whatever it takes to win.

“While most district polls passed peacefully this year, the few that did not revealed nationwide institutional weaknesses that should be fixed”, says Achmad Sukarsono, Crisis Group South East Asia Analyst. “These contests are often intense personal rivalries for community power that can be highly emotive and, if not closely watched, can quickly turn violent”.

While only twenty races out of more than 200 local elections in 2010 suffered from violence, candidates linked to these incidents are mostly challengers accusing ruling elites of using intimidation, bribery, and vote-rigging to block their candidacies. Frustrated challengers along with their supporters are quick to point to alleged electoral fraud. In the absence of transparent processes, credible explanations or accessible legal remedies, some have tried to resort to violence to change the outcome.

The report looks in detail at three cases from the districts of Mojokerto in East Java, Tana Toraja in South Sulawesi and Tolitoli in Central Sulawesi that highlighted this violent trend and placed direct local elections under national scrutiny. It contrasts them with a less publicised positive alternative from post-conflict Poso where authorities kept tensions under control by working together to resolve problems.

Indonesia should study more closely its local elections as some relatively simple changes to the way they are managed could reduce the risk of violence. District election commissions and oversight committees can be improved by funding them from the central government to cut dependency on local financing, as well as staffing them with people of stature from their communities who possess the maturity to handle crises. Local oversight committees, known as Panwaslu, and national election supervisors should be endowed with the authority and resources to investigate irregularities and hand out initial adjudications quickly.

Likewise, local election bodies must have the authority to decide pre-voting disputes in consultation with the national commission and supervisory bodies, which should have staff that are knowledgeable about dispute resolution. Rules on candidate eligibility also need to be simplified.

“Whether Indonesian democracy is working to the best advantage of its citizens remains a matter for debate”, says Jim Della-Giacoma, Crisis Group’s South East Asia Project Director. “What the 2010 local election cycle showed, however, is that modest efforts by national, provincial and district officials can minimise violence, if not avoid it altogether”.
Listen to Jim Della-Giacoma, Crisis Group’s South East Asia Project Director, talking about recent elections and what we can learn from them.
*Read the full Crisis Group report on our website:
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