Indonesia's secular parties too strong for pro-Sharia contenders

The dominance of secular parties in national elections trumps the notion of Indonesia becoming an Islamic state.

By Andhika Bhakti for Khabar Southeast Asia in Jakarta

April 02, 2014
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Despite a recent poll showcased by fundamentalist groups saying 72% of Indonesians think Sharia should be the law of the land, judging by past elections and current voter sentiment, Sharia won't be instituted countrywide anytime soon.

  • Supporters of Indonesia's Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) rally at Bung Karno Stadium in Jakarta on March 16th. [Adek Berry/AFP]

    Supporters of Indonesia's Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) rally at Bung Karno Stadium in Jakarta on March 16th. [Adek Berry/AFP]

An entity calling itself the SEM Institute, evidently connected with the group Islam in Indonesia, says it obtained the result after polling 1,498 people in 38 cities between late December 2013 and late January this year. Islam in Indonesia and Hizbut Tahrir Indonesia (HTI) posted the survey's results on their websites.

Yet five Islamic parties competing in next week's parliamentary elections are forecast to win a combined 15% of the vote – down from 26% in 2009, and 38% in 2004– according to the Indonesian Survey Institute (ISI).

"In choosing which party they will vote for, Muslim voters no longer think of their religion, but rather the party's track record and policies," ISI director Dodi Ambardi told AFP.

Softening their platforms

Indonesia may be the country with the largest Muslim population, but secular parties have dominated national politics since independence. In contrast, parties that traditionally have called for transforming Indonesia into an Islamic state have struggled to win over a majority of voters.

Muslim parties made a strong showing in the 1955 elections, but were suppressed under Soeharto's New Order Regime (1967-1998). They burst back onto the scene after Soeharto stepped aside.

Although they fared well in 2004 elections, the only such party to come to power was in 1999 when moderate Abdurrahman Wahid– popularly known as Gus Dur– became Indonesia's first democratically elected president.

He led the National Awakening Party (PKB), which headed a strategic alliance of Islam-based parties dubbed the Central Axis.

Now, if the country's five Islamic parties hope to win in coming elections, they will need to revive the Central Axis in some form and rally around a candidate who can lead them to power, commentators say.

"The Islamic parties' Central Axis can be done if they have one central figure who will be able to unite all of them," Bahtiar Effendy, a professor at Syarif Hidayatullah State Islamic University in Jakarta, told Khabar.

"Unfortunately, we have not seen this happening until now."

At the same time, Islamic parties are softening their platforms and relegating the issue of instituting Sharia law to the back burner. The PKB, United Development Party (PPP), National Mandate Party (PAN), Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) and Crescent Star Party (PBB) appear to be focusing more on promoting pluralism and democracy as tactics for attracting votes.

Marbawi A. Katon, an analyst with the firm Saiful Mujani Research & Consulting, likewise predicted Islam-based parties won't fare well in the April 9th legislative elections and the July 9th presidential election.

"I think our voters are now becoming more rational and selective. They will choose [a candidate] based on the programme offered by the political parties, and not only relying on ideology," he told Khabar Southeast Asia.

Reader Comments
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    • Embas Achmed
      June 12, 2014 @ 06:06:36AM
    • Ready to keep an eye on the developments.
    • gntolo
      May 1, 2014 @ 08:05:55AM
    • Those who recognize a God other than Allah will never receive blessings.
    • purnomo
      April 28, 2014 @ 03:04:16AM
    • If you don't like them then don't vote for them.
    • Mahmud Yunus
      April 28, 2014 @ 03:04:37AM
    • When Islamic parties are impotent or not confident in voicing Islam it is perhaps because the Islamic vision and mission of the parties are not yet clear. Therefore, the growth of Islamic social organizations such as NU, Muhammadiyah, PUI, Persis, etc. must be facilitated and their programs need to be supported because the jihadist spirit of Islamic organizations are more clear, unlike the management of a party, for which everything is calculated based on costs and benefits. Unfortunately, the young generation of today have never been involved in social organizations, they go directly to parties which are rife with material interests and thus we get party leaders who are practical, pragmatic and not ideological. It is different for those who get involved in Islamic society and see the problems faced by the faithful right before their eyes. Concerning state ideology, we should stop bringing it into conflict with Islam as an ideology; that is a thing of the past. Today it should be about cooperation between Islamic politicians to realize and serve the interests of Muslims. As long as those boundaries exist between parties and act like barriers, it would indicate that Islamic politicians are still laboring under an enlightened way of thinking. When Islam is at the forefront, the colors of the parties and groups are no longer a priority because Islam is everything. It would be even better if parties are streamlined just as they were in the Soeharto regime even if it was forced. Let's say we fuse the parties into two: an Islamic political party (PKS, PPP, PBB) and an Islamic Nationalist party (PKB and PAN). Insya Allah, Muslims will have a clear political party.
    • Sarsiono
      April 26, 2014 @ 04:04:53AM
    • If you want that to happen, then show Indonesia the Great that the elected leaders behave like a true Muslim. Don't claim to be Muslims and yet acts far removed from a true Muslim.
    • H.Djoko Supriyanto
      April 26, 2014 @ 04:04:10AM
    • Currently, Indonesian Muslims do not yet have an Islamic figure who would truly fight for the rights of Muslims to really be implemented in Indonesia. We will wait and see what happens after the presidential election on July 9, 2014!
    • lida
      April 24, 2014 @ 05:04:49PM
    • The truth is that, even to this day, I have not yet seen an Indonesian who is capable of leading this country to prosperity founded on justice, despite the fact that there are many smart people in this country. This is because we have not yet had a leader who leads with sincerity and honesty, they still deceive the people simply to further their interests and those of their families and groups.
    • aprianto
      April 24, 2014 @ 01:04:40PM
    • Political parties are nothing but a bunch of frauds! They disguise themselves as conduits for the people's aspirations when in reality they only seek to make themselves rich and to achieve fame. Religion is brought into the mix as a means to attract the masses and the result is division; we might as well change the country's founding principles while we're at it. Political parties are nothing but nonsense! Long live the lies, long live discrimination until there is nothing left. Independence? Nothing but a fantasy!
    • abank dewa
      April 24, 2014 @ 11:04:16AM
    • Indonesia needs to have a leader who understands what the people want at this moment, not the opposite.
    • damarHT
      April 23, 2014 @ 08:04:09PM
    • We have no example to follow yet. Every group wants to win it for themselves and that can only mean trouble; it can lead to civil war. This is why Pancasila is the most suitable and should remain as the foundation for the Unified Republic of Indonesia
    • H.Djoko Supriyanto
      April 20, 2014 @ 08:04:24PM
    • Our country's direction is in the hands of Muslims themselves. This is why we need true Islamic figures to advance the nation to become one that is baldatun, warobun, ghofur - just, peaceful and prosperous. That is the point.
    • RasidiPd
      April 18, 2014 @ 08:04:42AM
    • We should return to the initial aspirations of the nation's founders: a nation based on Pancasila, not anything else.
    • uci
      April 18, 2014 @ 12:04:16AM
    • Apparently the survey results are a farce. Parties that claim to have a Muslim base did not get 15% but 32% according to the QC. I wonder if those surveys on political power are made to generate opinions as opposed to portraying the reality of social and political power. I think that the results are not caused by the awareness of the faithful but the cleverness (deviousness, according to LIPI) of the party figures.
    • okabasidoma
      April 12, 2014 @ 08:04:06PM
    • The establishment of a country based on God's laws in the Al-Quran, the holy book of Islam, the only religion created by God on this Earth, is something that will most certainly happen. Simply put, when the time comes, humans are permitted to have different principles/religions, or even to be atheists, and more than that, allowed to worship demons, and of course, allowed to follow the Islamic principle/religion, which is expected. All people from every nation will base their laws on God's laws, the Al-Quran and the Prophet Muhammad SAW's Sunnah. You can believe or reject it but this is an inevitability that must be established. What is the reason and basis? Only God's laws are the most fair. For example, adultery must be punished by death, repeated theft must be punished by having their hand cut off and others. Humans need only to follow God commands. Man made laws will always create disasters and injustice, and it has been proven that nature is growing hotter and more humid, the skies are falling and the Earth is shaking.
    • sumantri
      April 19, 2014 @ 10:04:05AM
    • The same thing but through a different point of view.
    • damarHT
      April 23, 2014 @ 08:04:39PM
    • In its own time, but perhaps not now.
    • zulfar
      April 10, 2014 @ 05:04:18AM
    • Jokowi is not suited to become the president because it is too early for him to be president.
    • Gesenk Rumpenk
      April 18, 2014 @ 08:04:53PM
    • Jokowi is more than worthy of becoming the President of Indonesia. The others are not worthy at all, especially the old faces whose many faults have been made apparent. Are we going to wait until we are miserable to see this?
    • damarHT
      April 23, 2014 @ 08:04:45PM
    • If God has determined it, then who knows. It may have been prepared by Him since birth, right?
    • purnomo
      April 28, 2014 @ 03:04:31AM
    • So who do you consider as being worthy?
    • syaiful
      April 10, 2014 @ 04:04:28AM
    • The Indonesian Muslims have continuously been made complacent by the materialistic "an sich" reason and logic, where it has not only deceived themselves but also science itself. This has led Prof. Dr. Satjipto Rahardjo, SH to state in his book. "Law in Order", that positivism or science has failed to guide people's lives. For example, we are constantly faced with a choice of representatives such as presidential candidates and legislative candidates without legally binding political contracts. This is a logical consequence of a lawful country so that the people aren't constantly thrown into a world of chance/luck/gambles. What is the law on this according to religion? And yet, we have always put our faith in this from generation to generation and every time, the people are faced with insults and mockery of their representatives. This will never end unless the people, from laymen to intellectuals, rise up and no longer lie to themselves or be made complacent by "an sich" positivism which, without us realizing, has led to a cross-pollination with science. The accumulated effect of this often creates a dichotomy between political and spiritual behaviors and this opens up the door for those with the opportunity to commit wrongs that are difficult to pursue by law.
      April 9, 2014 @ 07:04:09AM
    • I am very interested in reading your article, because the news you send may open my mind.
    • parsaoran butarbutar
      April 7, 2014 @ 05:04:29AM
    • Go forth and glory to you.
    • asamson
      April 4, 2014 @ 12:04:08PM
    • Natural wealth and the mines in this country left behind by the kings and sultans, which are unique characteristics of Islam were controlled and devoured by the Dutch, the US and the Chinese. They were looted and robbed in gentle but rotten manner by the rulers both directly and indirectly. Then the leaders obscured and eliminated traces of the sultanates from the Republic. After erasing these forefathers, the Republic was injected with democracy by the Dutch, mixed with pigs' buttocks and fed into the mouths of this country. The purpose of parties is to create false, imitation kings because many have rotten and putrid hearts. Their dreams of justice and prosperity are nonsense because the owner of the earth and all things in it is Allah SWT. Remember, true nobles have characteristic traits - they are patient and calm. Their eyes and nails have certain characteristics. There are also signs on their foreheads. The analogy: The tips of an ace tree's leaves are dry, this is not the case for the rambutan tree. A tiger or a cat will have certain characteristics and temperaments, doves from Katuranggan, Kediri, Tuban, Majapahit, Pajajaran, Demak, etc. have different colored markings around their eyes and they also have different ways of perching. These indicate different temperaments and characteristics. The vetiver grown in Garut will not be as fragrant if planted anywhere else, the silk produced in Bantul is the best in the world and it has its own properties. Do not democratize holy grounds with state land, you're not even supposed to mix them because holy grounds are blessings from the prophets/guardians. The proof is that praying in Mecca and Medina will multiply the rewards. The point is, do not go against or manipulate Allah's decisions or you will be like the devils.

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