ACEH: Former rebel leaders set to become governor

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December 13, 2006 Asia Pacific

Jakarta has extended a hand to a former rebel leader set to become the first governor of Aceh province. Unofficial results after this week's landmark local elections show Irwandi Yusuf, the former spokesman of the separatist Free Aceh Movement likely to secure a landslide victory for the post of governor.

Listen  Listen  |  Audio Help  Presenter/Interviewer: Katie Hamann
Speakers: Sidney Jones, Indonesia Director International Crisis Group; Irwandi Yusuf, Aceh's incoming governor; Aceh students

HAMANN: As if sensing the gravity of Aceh's unfolding destiny, usually bleary eyed journalists, international observors and NGO workers bounced from their beds yesterday morning. The night before they had witnessed the power of Aceh's collective voice, with a sample poll revealing that Irwandi Yusef, a former Free Aceh Movement rebel and one time prison of the state would likely be the provinces first democratically elected governor.
Amdist the clamour International Crisis Group's Sidney Jones explained the significance of the result.

JONES: We've had a transformation of Aceh in the last 24 hours and I think we're going to see change in Aceh in a way that hasn't been possible for three decades. I think it means as well that Acehnese are basically tired of the same old political elite that has been in control for a long time and I think we may see different policies, we may see GAM in positions of power trying to push the envelope and change the relationship with Jakarta and it's going to be very interesting to see what Jakarta's reaction is. It will also mean for example that Jakarta may get very nervous about allowing independent candidates elsewhere if there were pressured for example to do that in Papua, or South Sulawesi.

HAMANN: For many yesterday's vote confirmed the often ambiguous breadth of GAM's civilian support. Accounting for the votes of runner-up Humum Hamid and his running mate Hasbi Abdullah the quick vote count gave GAM affliates more than fifty percent of the total ballot. In Banda Aceh city the shock result was met with both jubilation and nervous encouragement:

STUDENT: I think if they can change the Acehese lives and make our lives better and far away from the war. Because Irwandi is unpredictable so we do not choose him exactly but the fact that he's won. Irwandi has the support of GAM.

HAMANNL Why are you a little bit worried?

STUDENT: Because we're scared that he will change the politics in Aceh.

HAMANN:Speaking at a press conference yesterday morning Irwandi Yusef acknowleged the burden of expectation he faces and said he would learn from mistakes made in East Timor in recent years: