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Conflict erupts in Papua over unique voting system in Indonesia’s PE 2024

Conflict erupts in Papua over the unique noken voting system during the 2024 elections, leading to violence and highlighting cultural tensions.



INDONESIA: Amid the 2024 General Elections (Pemilu) in Indonesia, the traditional Papuan voting system known as “noken” has emerged as a source of contention, leading to conflict in the region of Papua.

The noken system, which differs significantly from standard voting practices, has sparked disagreement and even violence, highlighting the complexity of electoral processes in diverse regions like Papua.

The term “noken,” as elucidated in the Kamus Besar Bahasa Indonesia (KBBI), the great dictionary of the Indonesian Language, refers to a traditional Papuan bag made from wood fibers.

However, in the context of the electoral process in the mountainous regions of Papua, it symbolizes a distinct method of casting votes, which has deep cultural and traditional roots.

Unlike conventional voting systems prevalent in other parts of Indonesia, the noken system doesn’t allow individual citizens to directly cast their votes during elections.

Instead, it operates on a communal basis, where a single representative exercises the voting rights on behalf of an entire community or region.

This unique approach challenges the notion of “one man, one vote,” as elucidated by Mochamad Afifuddin, a member of the Indonesian General Elections Commission (KPU).

The implementation of the noken system is confined to specific regions within Papua, with the 2024 elections witnessing its application in 12 districts.

However, selecting areas utilizing the noken system is subject to local proposals and considerations, ensuring that not all polling stations within a district adopt this method.

The legal framework surrounding the noken system was established by the Constitutional Court of Indonesia, emphasizing its continuous application in regions where it has been traditionally employed.

Moreover, areas that have discontinued the use of the noken system are prohibited from reinstating it during subsequent elections, ensuring consistency and adherence to established electoral procedures.

The voting process under the noken system entails a series of communal deliberations and decisions led by tribal leaders before the actual polling day. These discussions culminated in selecting a representative who casts the collective votes on behalf of the community.

The intricate nature of this process requires meticulous recording and documentation by the Polling Station Organizing Groups (KPPS), ensuring transparency and accountability.

Despite the elaborate mechanisms in place, conflicts have erupted in several regions of Papua, notably in the city of Kenyam, Nduga Regency, during the legislative elections (pileg). The dispute stemmed from disagreements over the allocation of voting rights within the noken system, exacerbating tensions between rival factions.

The escalation of tensions resulted in violent clashes between two opposing groups, leading to injuries among both civilians and law enforcement personnel.

The Assistant Commissioner of Police Vinsensius Jimmy Parapaga confirmed the arrest of seven individuals implicated in the altercation, underscoring the severity of the situation.

Among the apprehended individuals, three were identified as primary instigators of the violence, reflecting the deep-seated animosity and familial ties underlying the conflict.

Efforts to mediate and resolve the dispute have been initiated by law enforcement authorities in collaboration with community leaders, emphasizing the importance of maintaining peace and stability in the region.

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