Journal of Legal, Ethical and Regulatory Issues (Print ISSN: 1544-0036; Online ISSN: 1544-0044)


Identity Politics and the Future of Democracy in Papua

Author(s): Avelinus Lefaan

Although the same phenomenon also occurs in other areas, in Papua, the practice of identity politics presents an interesting political phenomenon, because what is happening is a tug of war between the two groups of essentialistic identities among the Papuans themselves, namely between Mount Papua and Coastal Papua. The issue of local identity politics is so strong that even it is more imprinted on the mental structure of the Papuanese. The issue becomes stronger in every political moment of regional elections (Pilkada). For example, in the 2018 simultaneous regional elections, the battle for the identity between Papuanese living in the mountains (Papua Gunung) and Papuanese living in coastal areas (Papua Pantai) reemerged. On that basis, the governor candidate pairs considered the configuration of this identity politics. This trend is getting stronger, especially when the representative of Papua Gunung won the 2014 Papua Gubernatorial Election (Pilgub). In subsequent political developments, the practice of identity politics continues to dominate political dynamics in Papua. In the 2018 simultaneous regional elections, the phenomenon of identity politics was practiced by several elites to fight for power and gain strength. As an illustration, the configuration of the governor candidates proposed by several political parties in the 2018 Papua Gubernatorial Election shows the dichotomy configuration of the identity of Papua Pantai and Papua Gunung. Johm Wetipo and Habel Suwae, for example, Wetipo is from Papua Gunung, namely the Wamena Regent; while Habel Melkias Suwae is from Papua Pantai, the former regent of Jayapura Regency. Likewise, another candidate pair, Lukas Enembe and Klemen Tinal in which Lukas is from Papua Gunung, and Klementinal is a person from Papua Pantai. This phenomenon certainly has implications for the quality of democracy substantially. Simultaneous regional elections are a manifestation of a democratic political system, so selecting political leadership is based more on the prospective leader’s professional ability and capacity. The thesis that can be put forward is that a democratic system provides the broadest possible opportunity for anyone to become a leader as long as they have the capacity to do so. So leaders are elected by the people through democratic mechanisms because of professionalism, not because of primordialism aspects such as ethnicity, religion and race, or other permanently attached identities. This short article will explain and analyze the strong practice of identity politics in the dynamics of Papuan politics. This issue is interesting because it is rife amid efforts to build a democratic political system, especially since the implementation of Special Autonomy (Otsus) in Papua. Several theories will be used to provide an explanation for the increasing prevalence of identity politics, such as identity politics and ethnicity.

Get the App