Thursday, November 16, 2006

Aceh elections require more monitors - Antara

Update: You can contribute to online. Use this link to make a recurring contribution. One reason has given me for not committing yet/registering a Aceh elections monitoring team is lack of available designated funds. After you send them some money, call them up and ask them to put that money to work monitoring elections in Aceh. I think $50,000 over the weekend would be a great goal. Obviously a few other blogs will have to throw up this link and a quick ask... It is really important to have a counterbalance to the kinds of activities that the International Republican Institute has been accuesed of in Venezuela, Mexico, etc.

Jakarta (ANTARA News) - A European Union monitoring team for regional chief elections in Nanggroe Aceh Darussalam (NAD) province has shown its keen interest in observing the process of direct elections by the arrival of at least eight of its members in Aceh several days ago.

The eight members are part of 34 foreign observers who have been registered with the Independent Committee of Aceh Elections (KIP) to monitor the regional chief direct elections in the most-western province of the country.

The 34 volunteers, according to the local independent election commission monitoring working group chairman Ikhwanussufa in Banda Aceh on Thursday (Nov 2), are also part of a total of 800 observers who have been registered, including local observers.

The volunteers are from four international organizations, including the International Republican Institute (IRI) of the United States, the European Union, and the Asian Network for Free Elections.

Ikhwanussufa, however, did not mention if the 34 volunteers registered their names directly in Banda Aceh or from abroad. The Aceh election independent committee opened the registration for monitoring groups from September 18 to November 22, 2006.

A total of 800 observers, who have been registered, would not be enough to monitor the elections properly as there would be some 10,000 polling booths throughout Aceh. "So, we wish to have at least 10,000 observers because ideally, one polling booth should have one observer," he said. [Bustanuddin, Antara News]

The fact that the International Republican Institute is mentioned, and its Democratic Party affiliated counterpart, the National Democratic Institute is not, is troubling to me in light of the history of that organization in Haiti and Venezula:

But did the rebellion really spring from nowhere? Maybe not. Several leaders of the demonstrations -- some of whom also had links to the armed rebels -- had been getting organizational help and training from a U.S. government-financed organization. The group, the International Republican Institute (IRI), is supposed to focus on nonpartisan, grassroots democratization efforts overseas. But in Haiti and other countries, such as Venezuela and Cambodia, the institute -- which, though not formally affiliated with the GOP, is run by prominent Republicans and staffed by party insiders -- has increasingly sided with groups seeking the overthrow of elected but flawed leaders who are disliked in Washington.

In 2002 and 2003, IRI used funding from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to organize numerous political training sessions in the Dominican Republic and Miami for some 600 Haitian leaders. Though IRI’s work is supposed to be nonpartisan -- it is official U.S. policy not to interfere in foreign elections -- a former U.S. diplomat says organizers of the workshops selected only opponents of Aristide and attempted to mold them into a political force.

The trainings were run by IRI’s Haiti program officer, Stanley Lucas, the scion of a powerful Haitian family with long-standing animosity toward Aristide -- Amnesty International says some family members participated in a 1987 peasant massacre. “To have Lucas as your program officer sends a message to archconservatives that you’re on their side,” says Robert Maguire, a Haiti expert at Trinity College in Washington, D.C. [Joshua Kurlantzick, Mother Jones]

Please contact the National Democratic Institute and encourage them to register a team of Aceh election observers before the November 22nd deadline.

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