Friday, April 17, 2009

Indonesia's Muslims Position for Power

Don't count them out despite their overall falling numbers
Despite a fall in the overall vote for Islamic and
religious–inspired parties from 38 percent in 2004 to about 28
percent in 2009, and negative comments in the press, a cluster
of Islamic parties are positioning to join the emerging
Indonesian governing coalition for the next five years.
Indonesia just completed legislative elections on April 9. The
Democratic Party led by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono won
with 20 percent of the votes and is forecast to win 141 seats in
the House of Representatives, as against 56 last time.
There will be presidential elections in July after which a new
government will be formed. The incumbent president and his party
are in the best position to form a winning coalition and several
religious parties are negotiating to join this prospective new
The Golkar Party, led by Vice President Jusuf Kalla, won only 14
percent of the votes and is forecast to win 97 seats, down from
127 last time. The Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), led by
Megawati Sukarnoputri also won 14 percent and is forecast to win
102 seats this time, as against 107 last time.
The next four parties were Islamic or religious-inspired, won
about 26 percent of the votes, and are forecast to win 166 of
the seats, as against 208 seats last time. The Prosperous
Justice Party (PKS) won 8 percent of votes and is forecast to
win 52 seats, against 45 last time. The National Mandate Party
(PAN) gained 6 percent of the votes and is forecast to win 41
seats having held 53 last time. The United Development Party
(PPP) and the National Awakening Party (PKB) both gained 5
percent of the votes. The PPP is forecast to hold only 37 of the
58 seats it held last time and the PKB, following a party split,
is forecast to only hold 36 of the 52 seats it held last time.
This data is based on exit polls and quick count tallies, with
the latter updated as the results are slowly confirmed. These
predictions on seats were published by Harry Su of Bahana
Securities in local media . The PKS is forecast to hold 31
percent of the religious party seats compared to 22 percent last
time, with the more traditional religious parties losing ground.
Bahtiar Effendy writing in The Jakarta Post (17.04.09)
interprets these results to mean that the Islamic parties are at
an impasse and no longer an important factor in Indonesian
If the religious parties are so unimportant, why are some
observers attacking so hard the prospect of a continued
coalition between the Democratic Party (DP) and the PKS?
Detractors emphasis PKS links with the Muslim Brotherhood. But
others worry that a coalition between the private sector and the
religious parties led by a stronger DP could mean a continuing
Presidential push against corruption and for reform.
But why are some public comments so bleak on the prospects for
the Islamic parties? The answer of course is politics. Firstly,
the politics of news orientation during the formation of
political coalitions, which may seek to influence the political
game it reports.
For example, warning that "embracing the Islam-based PKS could
cost Yudhoyono a second term" as argued by James van Zorge in
the Asia Sentinel, despite the fact that the President led the
same coalition in his first term, and is a lot stronger now !
Second, the politics of restructuring the Islamic parties and
the relationships between them. The old conservatives are
fighting a losing battle and internationalized radicals are
making gains. But this is not new and the same cycles have
happened in Indonesia before 9.11.
Finally there are concerns about a discernable international
influence, reflecting different views on how to handle the rise
of a new generation of internationalized political Islam, not
only in Indonesia, but also in Malaysia, Egypt, Turkey and
Palestine and elsewhere in the Muslim world.
The shape of the next Indonesian ruling coalition will shake out
in the next few weeks and Indonesia will continue to prove that
it can cope with political Islam in a democratic framework.
Terry Lacey is a development economist who writes from Jakarta
on modernization in the Muslim world, investment and trade
relations with the EU and Islamic banking.
------------------------------------------ Asia Sentinel
April 17, 2009 Written by Terry Lacey

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