What a Vote for Islam Might Mean in Indonesia
JAKARTA, Indonesia — The less-than-spectacular outcome for the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle, or PDI-P, wasn’t the only notable thing to come out of Indonesia’s legislative elections.
Analysts have been quick to point out that President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s Democrat Party, which was expected to be demolished in the polls, did slightly better than expected – though its share of the vote still halved from its strong performance in 2009.
Meanwhile, the vote marked a milestone for the Great Indonesia Movement Party (Gerindra) and its presidential candidate, ex-special forces Lt. Gen. Prabowo Subianto. The party, which formed just before the 2009 election, nearly tripled its share of the vote.
But perhaps the most intriguing result was the better-than-expected showing of the Islamic parties, particularly in a country where – despite its world-largest population of Muslims – religious sentiments have seldom seemed to win votes.
Greg Fealy, a professor of politics at Australia National University who focuses on political Islam, chalks up a lot of their good showing to the way they ran their campaigns. Many were well-funded, well-organized and brought in some attractive figures – including a famous singer. Some proved to have more solid constituencies than expected.
The National Awakening Party, or PKB, for example, tapped into its connections to Nahdlatul Ulama, Indonesia’s largest Islamic organization. “The last time it was close to that organization it scored an even higher vote, in 1999,” said Mr. Fealy.
The National Mandate Party, or PAN, also had a successful run, reaching out to many voters through a large network of campaigners. The party, like PKB, is considered one of the more progressive of Indonesia’s five Islam-based parties.
PAN and PKB may also have benefitted from the poor showing of the Democrats. The party, which won more than 20% of the vote in the 2009 legislative elections, saw its popularity plummet following a series of corruption scandals.
Indonesia has a long tradition of moderate Islam but has become more conservative in recent years. More women have begun to wear the hijab, or headscarf, and even more secular nationalist parties have reached out to leading Muslim organizations to pick up voters.
Still, the Indonesian government is secular and conservative religious sentiment doesn’t tend to win voters. Of the four Islam-based parties that managed to win enough votes to expect seats in the legislature, none had “strong religious messages,” said Mr. Fealy.
Looking ahead, the renewed strength of the Islamic parties will affect their place in the coalitions that form, benefitting the moderate PAN and PKB if they can work in a governing coalition with PDI-P, analysts say.
Meanwhile, the more hardcore Islamic parties, which are currently part of the governing coalition, could see themselves pushed outside the new government.
In Indonesian Election Aftermath, a Few Lessons on the Jokowi Effect
JAKARTA, Indonesia—The buzz out of Indonesia’s recent legislative elections has largely been about Jakarta Gov. Joko Widodo and the boost he failed to provide to the party supporting him for president, the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle, or PDI-P.
Pre-election surveys showed a spike in support for PDI-P after it announced its backing for the popular governor, known as Jokowi. Some analysts predicted that the party would win as much as 30% of the overall vote Wednesday, which would have been a phenomenal boost from 14% in the last elections five years ago.
Preliminary quick counts instead showed a less-stunning 19%, leading to a raft of commentary about how the party fumbled – and what the lower-than-expected support means for the so-called Jokowi phenomenon.
The 52-year-old governor’s appeal is his man-of-the people touch in getting out on the streets and taking a hands-on approach to problems. Critics say that he hasn’t managed to achieve much in his year-and-a-half as governor and it’s too early to declare him a national leader.
But before dismissing him in the presidential vote in July, analysts urge some words of caution:
It’s about the people, not the party: “Voters are not loyal to the political party, they vote for the person they want irrespective of the political party,” said Sandra Hamid, Indonesia head of the Asia Foundation, a non-governmental organization that studied voter knowledge and practices. “We can’t read this [outcome] as though Jokowi will get fewer votes than expected in the presidential election. It depends on whether or not he remains the Jokowi that people have liked all this time.”
Candidates only care about themselves: The open party list voting system in legislative elections has led to what Edward Aspinall, a professor of politics at Australian National University, calls “ground war style campaigns run by individual candidates.”
In a recent blog, Mr. Aspinall explains that under an open party list, voters select a candidate within a party from among up to a dozen others. That type of selection has led to a style of campaigning where candidates promote themselves rather than their parties, meaning Wednesday’s vote “is not simply a product of voters’ views on national issues, or even their preference for individual parties or presidential [candidates].”
Conclusion: legislative elections aren’t much of a reflection on who people will vote for the president.
PDI-P still came out on top: That the party won less of the vote than it had hoped for shows that Mr. Widodo “is not invincible,” said Yohanes Sulaiman, a lecturer at Indonesia National Defense University. “Fair or not, Jokowi and the PDI-P’s inability to live up to the hype has resulted in damage to the Jokowi brand,” he writes in a recent blog. But, he says, PDI-P may have done even worse without Jokowi.
“This 19% is not fantastic for Jokowi however you look at it,” said Ms. Hamid. “For people who have entered PDI-P who are not supportive of Jokowi, this is the chance to say the whole Jokowi effect is not huge.”
Even if he becomes president, the parliamentary showing could weaken Mr. Widodo’s hand in working with a future governing coalition in the legislature where his party is not in a dominant position, a problem faced by the outgoing president, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.
“I think what voters really want is a changed way of governing,” said Ms. Hamid. “This whole thing of huge coalitions and not being able to decipher who’s governing … that has gotten old. People want something different and they expect something different from Jokowi. So this 19% is going to be very problematic for Jokowi. How is he going to deliver? It’s not going to be easy for him.”
Indonesia’s legislative election: a vote for moderation?
On April 9, Indonesians voted in their fourth free and fair national election since the fall of President Suharto in 1998 ended four decades of authoritarianism. A win for the main opposition party – the (PDI-P) was widely predicted, in large part due the enthusiasm surrounding its popular presidential candidate, Jakarta governor Joko Widodo, widely known as Jokowi.
In a highly fragmented party system where 12 parties competed for 560 seats in the House of Representatives, some polls suggested the PDI-P could take close to 30 per cent of the popular vote. Quick counts on Wednesday suggested the party fell far short of such predictions, earning the trust of only about 19 per cent of Indonesian voters.
The dominant reaction to the election so far has been one of surprise and disappointment that the PDI-P did not earn a stronger mandate for what many hoped could be a reformist Jokowi-led government. At the same time, concerns were aired that despite predictions of declining influence, Islamic parties appear to have increased their combined vote from 29 per cent in 2009 to about 32 per cent.
But there is reason to be cautiously optimistic. The nature of the likely coalition to take shape over the coming weeks suggests Indonesia will be governed by a moderate government under which the recent trend of hostility towards religious minorities could be reversed.
Now that the votes are counted, and parties know exactly what they have to bargain with, party elites are busy cementing coalitions. To officially nominate a president/vice-president pair for the presidential election on July 9, a party, or a coalition of parties, must reach 25 per cent of the popular vote or 20 per cent of lower house seats. Polls had suggested that the PDI-P would get close to reaching this threshold on its own, but it now seems that it could fall just short.
But while the coalitions for presidential elections are important, within weeks, parties will also form a governing coalition that can command a majority of seats in the House of Representatives. It is almost certain now that the PDI-P will hold the highest number of seats in the house. In addition, despite the PDI-P’s failure to capitalise on Jokowi’s popularity in the legislative election, it remains highly unlikely that Jokowi could be defeated by former General Prabowo Subianto in the presidential elections in July. While the low result for the PDI-P makes it more reliant on coalition partners, eventually, parties will either have to cooperate with a Jokowi-led government, or assume a more oppositional stance.
There are several reasons why the next PDI-P-led coalition is likely to be more moderate in regards to minority rights than the current government led by Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and his Democrat Party.
The PDI-P regards itself a legatee of Sukarno, Indonesia’s first president, and is a staunch defender of his Pancasila philosophy – a set of ideas that enjoins belief in god, but also entails the virtues of diversity and tolerance. In the Indonesian context these leanings are often described as "secular-nationalist", in contrast to parties that champion a more explicitly Islamic agenda. In opposition the PDI-P opposed several conservative pieces of legislation and criticised the government’s inaction in the face of violent attacks against religious minorities, such as Shia Muslims and the Ahmadiyah. It is likely to continue drawing on this pluralist ideological legacy when in government.
In addition to its own pluralist track record, according to Indonesian media reports the PDI-P is strongly inclined to work with the National Awakening Party (PKB) and the National Mandate Party (PAN), who surpassed pollster’s expectations by gaining about 9.2 per cent and 7.5 per cent of the national vote respectively. Both are linked to Indonesia’s two oldest and largest Islamic organisations, Nahdlatul Ulama and Muhammadiyah, whose membership bases in the tens-of-millions make up the vast majority of Indonesia’s Muslim community. A coalition with these two parties would anchor the "secular-nationalist" PDI-P firmly in the pluralist Muslim centre.
While the probable coalition between the PDI-P, PKB and PAN is in itself a centrist force, the likely exclusion of two other Islamic parties further indicates that the next government will be more moderate.
The Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) and the United Development Party (PPP) have both been part of President Yudhoyono’s governing coalition, holding key ministries. To varying degrees, both played a role in Indonesia losing its international reputation as home to a moderate and tolerant Islam.
Importantly, in contrast to the gains made by the moderate Islamic parties, the combined vote for the PKS and PPP in 2014 stagnated relative to 2009. The PDI-P is unlikely to take either of them on board in a new government.
But a coalition of the PDI-P with only the two moderate Islamic parties would not be enough to form a stable majority-government. The PDI-P will need the support of one of the medium-sized parties – Gerindra; Prabowo’s party; Golkar, Suharto’s former electoral vehicle; or the Democrat Party, incumbent president Yudhoyono’s party.
It seems unlikely that PDI-P and Gerindra can work together for a number of reasons. First, Prabowo recently accused PDI-P chairwoman Megawati Sukarnoputri of betraying an agreement dating from 2009 between the PDI-P and Gerindra according to which Megawati was to support Prabowo for the presidency in 2014, after he ran as her vice-president in 2009. Second, Jokowi is likely to shatter Prabowo’s ambition of becoming president in July, after Gerindra helped to deliver him onto the national scene by supporting his successful run for governor of Jakarta in 2012. Last, and most importantly, over the coming three months, PDI-P and Gerindra are likely to throw more dirt at each other as the presidential race will pit Jokowi against Prabowo.
As to a deal between the PDI-P and the Democrat Party, the well-known personal animosity between PDI-P chairwoman Megawati and Democrat Party patron Yudhoyono, means that the Democrat Party is also an unlikely coalition partner for the PDI-P. The Democrat Party also dropped from 20 per cent of the vote in 2009 to 9 per cent in 2014, due to the arrest by the Anti-Corruption Eradication Commission of several senior board members.
That leaves Golkar as the only party that can offer enough supportive House of Representatives seats to the PDI-P when it comes to passing legislation. And what better party to govern with than the party that is yet to spent a single day in opposition in more than four decades of its existence. Despite on election night expressing coy ambiguity over Golkar’s prospect of joining a PDI-P-led coalition, Golkar chairman and presidential candidate Aburizal Bakrie has previously indicated that Golkar is a "government party".
While Golkar has a mixed record in standing up for minority rights, the absence of the PPP and PKS from government is bound to drag the government down a much more tolerant path. The starkest illustration of the changing tone the next government is likely to take towards minorities will be the replacement of the conservative current minister of religious affairs, PPP chairman Suryadharma Ali, who is currently facing a backlash from his own party board for, unbeknownst to them, last week appearing on stage with Prabowo at a Gerindra rally. He will soon be replaced with a more moderate figure, almost certainly from the PKB.
In sum, under this possible scenario of a new governing-coalition, the conservative slice of Islamic parties is relegated to opposition benches. Instead, the most consistent defender of pluralist values, the PDI-P, together with the moderate Islamic parties, takes the levers of government.
While a coalition that includes Golkar is not what many hoped for, the realities of election day leave little hope for a more limited reformist coalition. But a PDI-P-led government, in which PAN and PKB represent the moderate Islamic voice, and Golkar makes sure the machine putters along, would at least allow for the increasingly tight space for religious minorities to widen again.
Dominic Berger is a PhD candidate at the Department of Political Social Change at the Australian National University.
Oligarchy dominates Indonesia’s elections
By Jeffrey Winters of Northwestern University
Indonesia’s political parties are not bottom-up institutions. They are more like a conical lamp over a billiard table: intense and bright at the narrow top, faint and dim towards the bottom. Ever since the Communist Party was butchered in the mid-1960s, no Indonesian party has been interested in arousing passions among the citizenry or engaging them in politics.
Elections every five years are enough, with campaigning lasting just three weeks, followed by a mandatory “cool down” interval during the week before election day.
Oligarchic and elite power thoroughly dominate this system. Oligarchs are empowered by massive wealth, while elites are empowered by official positions, control of institutions and other power resources.
The interplay between wealth power and elite power unfolds in different ways in Indonesia. In most parties, oligarchic power is on top.
Take Golkar, the former party of long-ruling autocrat General Suharto, which is now headed by tycoon Aburizal Bakrie, for instance. You must have serious money to dominate the party. Golkar’s biggest problem is that it has too many big-money players buying support within the party.
This is why Golkar has spawned a dizzying array of splinter parties since 1998, each dominated by a major oligarch who had enough money personally to launch a party or could do so by augmenting his funds with injections from a network of wealthy associates.
Retired General Wiranto financed Hanura, retired General Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (“SBY”) financed the Democrat Party, retired General Prabowo Subianto and his tycoon brother Hashim Djojohadikusumo financed Gerindra, and media tycoon Surya Paloh financed the National Democrat party. All four originated in Golkar, and three had tried to dominate Golkar but lost the money battle to Jusuf Kalla and Bakrie (who themselves formed on-again, off-again alliances with President SBY).
Everyone at the top of the other parties is well off personally, but none has been able to convert their elite status into enough wealth to make them big-time oligarchic players.
The Indonesian Democratic Party-Struggle (PDI-P) has functioned since 1998 as a dynastic party dominated by Megawati Sukarnoputri, daughter of Indonesia’s founding President Sukarno. This is her sole asset, and it has declined steadily in value as the reality of Megawati the politician (aloof and ceremonial) has replaced the image of the father (engaged and passionately connected to the people). She rose from vice-president to president thanks to the impeachment of Abdurrahman Wahid in 2001, was rejected by voters as the sitting incumbent in 2004, and then was rejected again in 2009.
Except during the PDI-P’s three years in office, when money sloshed toward those in power, the party has depended on the largesse of major Indonesian oligarchs (almost none of whom are card-carrying PDI-P members) to fund its operations and especially its electoral campaigns.
The rise to national prominence of Jakarta governor Joko Widodo (commonly known as “Jokowi”) and his nomination for the presidency by the PDI-P is, ironically, yet another manifestation of oligarchic and elite influence, although this time combined with a surge of popular support that is not closely tethered to the party’s constituency.
Jokowi, a popular small-town mayor, was elevated by Kalla, Prabowo, his brother Hashim, and Megawati to run for the governorship of Jakarta. He did not rise up through the party ranks but instead parachuted in from above, with enormous financial backing from major oligarchs. Combined with an enthusiastic pump-up from the major media, which are overwhelmingly owned by a dozen oligarchs, Jokowi rocketed from complete anonymity into the public consciousness.
Once Jokowi was launched, the public had its chance to register their support via polls, blogs, and social media. Thus, oligarchs and elites got him there, and the people kept him there.
His style contrasted with that of everyone else on the national stage. He wasn’t regal like Megawati, didn’t have stars on his shoulders like SBY, Prabowo, and Wiranto, wasn’t a businessman like Bakrie, Kalla, and Paloh, and didn’t manipulate Islamic symbols like the leaders of the religious parties. And unlike nearly every major political leader, he was not tarred by suspicions of corruption or worse.
However poorly informed voters may be in most democracies, they can usually sense if someone is genuine or fake. Despite his debts to oligarchs and elites, the people feel Jokowi is genuine. In all previous Indonesian elections, the choices have been only between fake and fake.
Jeffrey Winters is a professor of political science at Northwestern University and the author of Oligarchy.