The Noken System and the Challenge of Democratic Governance at the Periphery: An Analysis of Free and Fair Elections in Papua, Indonesia

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Since the post-Suharto era in 1998, decentralization has been established as the major institutional reform in Indonesia. It has been implemented as the policy framework which aims not only to generate development but also to promote democratization through the establishment of direct elections for local executive leaders. In fact, promoting democracy by establishing local executive elections in Indonesia is challenging. The inability of national policy to adapt to the local customary practice creates a barrier in implementing the ideal concept of democracy, namely free and fair elections. This chapter addresses the problems of free and fair elections by examining the practice of the “noken” system in Papua, the name of a traditional bag which evolved as an election mechanism in several districts in Papua’s central highland area. This research utilizes eight indicators of free and fair elections to analyze the problems in every stage of election: before the election, on the election, and after the election. Based on the literature, policy-study, and data from newspaper articles, this research argues that the practice of noken system contravenes with the principles of democracy. The absence of law and regulation to standardize this customary practice becomes a major drawback in promoting democratic governance at the periphery region.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationChallenges of Governance
Subtitle of host publicationDevelopment and Regional Integration in Southeast Asia and ASEAN
EditorsRonald L. Holzhacker, Wendy Guan Zhen Tan
Place of PublicationCham
Number of pages21
ISBN (Electronic)978-3-030-59054-3
ISBN (Print)978-3-030-59053-6
Publication statusPublished - 2021

Publication series

NameDevelopment and Governance
ISSN (Print)2567-5133
ISSN (Electronic)2567-5354


  • Political decentralization
  • Local direct election
  • Papua
  • Noken system
  • Democracy
  • Free and fair election

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