Friday, February 09, 2007

Lessons from Aceh and Serbia

Irwandi Yusuf, a former leader of the Free Aceh movement has been sworn in as governor after the elections of last year. The Ache government site is here. The settlement between the Indonesian government and the Free Aceh movement was the only positive outcome linked to the tsunami, as the international aid program forced greater scrutiny on the region. From conversations with some involved in the peace process it is interesting that although the Indonesian government imposed Sharia law on the province, in an effort to appeal to presumed local sentiment, the overtly Islamist parties actually polled poorly. Interesting BBC profile on the Serbian Radical party and its efforts to distance itself from its past of ultra-nationalism and ethnic cleansing. The Radicals managed 28.6% of the vote at the January 2007 elections. But note that Milosevic’s old party the Serbian Socialists are now done to 5.6% perilously close to falling below the 5% threshold for parliamentary membership. They were a conspicuous example of a post-Communist party going down the road of xenophobia and 'national socialism' rather than turning to social democracy, although the party now claims to be social democratic. In the long run not a winning formula, its vote was 41.6% at the first free elections in 1990. The Radicals' campaign appealed more to economic themes:

The SRS has also made social security and the economy, not Greater Serbia, the focus of their campaign, promising new jobs, a crackdown on corruption, support for agriculture, reform of pensions, the renationalisation of commercial banks and a shake-up of the judiciary. In the party's economic programme, voters can learn that the party supports "brownfield investments as well as small and middle-sized companies and a relaxed monetary policy, which would lead to lower rates". As one Belgrade observer remarked, "Every day they sound more like Social Democrats than the Radicals."

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