(Jakarta, 31 May 2018) Local elections scheduled for 27 June 2018 across Indonesia include several races in Papua, including for governor and deputy governor, that have raised concerns about possible conflict. While small outbreaks of localised violence may take place, it is still extraordinary how much aggrieved Papuans still choose to settle most of their electoral disputes through the formal court system, weak and corrupt as it is.
The 2018 Local Elections in Papua: Places and Issues to Watch, the latest report from the Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict (IPAC), examines the provincial race for governor and several of seven districts (kabupaten) where contenders are vying for the top two executive posts of bupati and deputy bupati. In three of the districts, a fractious verification process produced a single candidate slate with no opposition, but this is hardly a sign of democratic progress.
Indonesian officials have cited Papua as the most trouble-prone province as the elections loom, and the reasons are many: poor voter education, rampant corruption, geographic remoteness, weak election machinery, inflated voter rolls and a practice of officially-endorsed proxy voting that invites fraud. “Most of these elections are more about patronage than policy,” says Sidney Jones, IPAC director.
The report notes Papuan elections could be significantly improved by some interventions which are technically feasible but politically nearly impossible. One is to actually get an accurate headcount of Papuan residents and expose the inaccuracy of voting rolls. The next opportunity to do this systematically is the 2020 census, and extra resources should be allocated for enumerators in Papua. An accurate count, however, would undermine local political machines and expose corruption in funding allocations from Jakarta.
A second measure would be to eliminate the so-called “noken system” of proxy voting. The term covers a wide range of practices in which votes are collected on behalf of particular candidates; all of them violate the principle of one person, one vote and increase the likelihood of fraud.
A third, which comes out clearly in this report, would be to eliminate the requirement to produce diplomas as evidence of educational attainment.“The time, effort and money wasted in challenging, defending and verifying diplomas suggests that they are no longer a useful condition of candidacy,” says Jones.