Muslim clergy are urging Indonesia's five Islamic parties to make the most of their combined victory in the April 9th legislative elections and unite for the presidential race.
Under the banner of the Islamic People's Forum (FUI) grouping the country's 67 most influential clerical organisations, Muslim leaders on Monday (April 21st) called on those parties to form a coalition in the run-up the July 9th election.
"This is the time for them if they want to win," Din Syamsuddin, chairman of both Muhammadiyah and the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI), which heads the FUI, told Khabar Southeast Asia on Monday.
"The past legislative election was evidence …. I hope they will not waste this opportunity."
Din was referring to how the slate's five faith-based parties – the National Awakening Party (PKB), National Mandate Party (PAN), United Development Party (PPP), Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) and Crescent Star Party (PBB) – together captured nearly 32% of ballots cast April 9th, according to a quick count by Indonesian Survey Circle (LSI).
No single party among the five garnered more than 10% of the vote, and all lagged behind the major secular Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), Golkar, Gerindra and ruling Democratic parties.
Islamic but diverse
Many Indonesian voters want to see a president from an Islamic group elected, according to Bahtiar Effendy, dean of the Department of Social and Political Sciences at the State Islamic University in Jakarta.
"We know from our history that it is difficult to unite Islamic-based parties. They are prone to conflict, segregation, and disunity. It is also hard to find a leader that could be accepted by all parties," he told Khabar.
"But in 2014, I think Islamic parties have this capacity. They just need to unite to decide who can lead the country."
On April 17th, prominent leaders from various parties – including the PKB, PPP and PKS – met in Cikini, Central Jakarta, to discuss the prospect of forming a strategic bloc.
Such a bloc might be called the Indonesia Raya Coalition and it would bring together Islamic and nationalist leaders, said former Muhammadiyah chairman Amien Rais, who attended the meeting.
"The Indonesia Raya coalition reflects the diversity of Indonesia, including religion, ethnicity, as well as a variety of cultures. They are still Islamic parties but it will be open for all of these diversities," he told Khabar.
Maeswara Palupi contributed to this article.