Islam on the Political Map

Apr 14th, 2009, in News, by

PPPIs political Islam down and out in 2009? Islamic parties look for reasons for their failure.

In the 2009 elections Partai Persatuan Pembangunan (PPP) - United Development Party, led by Suryadharma Ali, seems likely to have polled only around 5%, compared to 8.15% in 2004.

One party leader, Chairul Mahfiz, says the PPP will have to consider whether using Islamic symbols is appropriate moving into the future, particularly given the fact that two other Islamic parties held firm in their share of the votes, - Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) and National Mandate Party (PAN) - while at the same time positioning themselves as more open parties, and relying less on Islamic messages when campaigning. okezone

We have to think about repositioning our base.

Comparison of party votes in 2004 and 2009:

2004 2009
Demokrat 7.45% 20,36%
PDIP 18.53% 14,32%
Golkar 21.58% 14,24%
PKS 7.34% 8,46%
PAN 6.44% 6,36%
PPP 8.15% 5,46%
PKB 10.57% 5,12%
Gerindra n/a 4,47%
Hanura n/a 3,52%
PBB 2.62% 1,98%

Another PPP figure, Masruhan Samsurie in Central Java, put the blame on:

  • secular parties sold themselves better
  • democracy 'corners' Islamic parties
  • the new voting system confused the PPP's base - old and village folk
  • PPP candidates were not allowed to bribe voters, while other parties' candidates did

Meanwhile a Washington Times report states

As political Islam gains strength globally, it has achieved little electoral success in Indonesia.

18-year-old jilbabed student Ismi Safeya is interviewed and says

The wisest choice is a government not dependent on Islamic law

While Defence Minister Juwono Sudarsono says people are too much interested in bread and butter issues

Parties that advocate for sharia, or Islamic law, do not get much play.

Presidential spokesman Andi Mallarangeng implies that the supposedly secular Partai Demokrat ("nationalist and religious") has deliberately under-cut the support of Islamic parties:

The categories are blurred right now. To win, you have to move to the centre.

This centre, he says, is a blend of moderate Islam with programs to deliver such economic basics as jobs and food. washpost


45 Comments on “Islam on the Political Map”

  1. avatar Mr Tic Tac Toe says:

    I think the reason is this: The islamic parties were doing black campaign against each other.
    Each claimed themselves as more islamic than others.

    The general masses are actually centrist indeed.

    While Defence Minister Juwono Sudarsono says people are too much interested in bread and butter issues

    If I’m not mistaken, Pak Juwono’s father was a socialist. Either PS, PSI or PARSI.

    Presidential spokesman Andi Mallarangeng implies that the supposedly secular Partai Demokrat (”nationalist and religious”) has deliberately under-cut the support of Islamic parties:

    Mallarangeng brothers are JIL (liberal moslems).

    Both opinions are from secularists (i dont know about PPP). I think we need more opinions from the fanatics.

  2. avatar bung tobing says:

    First, there are too many Islamic parties. One Islamic party steals other Islamic party’s constituents and has its own constituents attracted by another Islamic party.

    Second, in time like this, nationalist party seems more promising in terms of satisfying economic needs. Japan Times quoted one shopkeeper in Jakarta: “We are choosing people to lead a country, not to lead a mosque. You can’t pray away bad economy, poverty, and unemployment”.

  3. avatar Odinius says:

    Elections always remind me of why I think Indonesia and the United States are similar. Both are very religious societies where politicians are expected to make some show of their religious credentials, but 75-80% of the population doesn’t want religion to explicity define secular politics.

    On the other hand, in both cases a vocal minority of 20-25%, approximately, do want that.

    Indonesia’s coalition politics allow for smaller parties to continue to exert influence, but I wonder if religious politics will be subsumed into secular party categories, as they are here…

  4. avatar Q says:

    There isn’t a single unified Islam voice in Indonesia anyway; you have the abangans (NU, PKB), the Muhammadiyah (PPP), and the Arab-oriented (PKS). I am of the opinion that there is no way these three will see things eye to eye.

    At the end of the day though, Indonesians are just not that religious, and female voters (I hope) would be very wary about voting for parties that may establish sharia law one day.

    The people I know (who are Muslims voters) are more worried about the negative effect on their freedom, rather than the positive effects that the parties continually advertise. It’s funny how some said (joked?) that there’s no way they’ll vote for him if they’re just gonna ban cigarettes one day (which I think is a great idea).

    Elections always remind me of why I think Indonesia and the United States are similar. Both are very religious societies …

    The difference is, I don’t think Christian teachings advocated a religious based government (at least the non-jewish stuff), while Islam actually put down a set of rules for governance. If you ask a Muslim, what kind of rules an Islamic country should follow, he’ll point to some texts and say “There you go!”, but if you ask a Christian, well … you can be a democrat, absolute monarch, socialist, fascist, … whatever …

    It’s kinda easier to set up an Islamic state than a Christian one. I dunno, is there any Christian state left in the world besides the Vatican (not much of a state anyway)?

  5. avatar Ross says:

    Odinius makes the point that 20% plus, if they united, would be the total at present. They might just unite next time, and then they’d outnumber the Dems.
    As to his comparison with the US, not sure what he means.
    The Supreme Court there made a fallacious judgement years ago, about school prayers, which had never been controversial, and since then unelected judges have been taking pot-shots at America’s religious heritage.
    The Founding Fathers had Christian chaplains for their regiments and voted missionary funds to convert Indians. They did not want a ‘Church of England’ established as a state church in America, but they were clear it was a Christian country. Equally, they were usually tolerant of other religions, except loonies like polygamist mormons!
    If Indonesian Muslims could exert their influence on their ustads to stop persecuting harmless minorities, then this country would indeed be a splendid example for other Islamic nations to emulate. As America used to be for its fellow-members of Christendom.

  6. avatar sputjam says:

    If they were given a choice, even iranians and saudis will vote the religious guys out.

  7. avatar Lairedion says:

    Islamic parties are too much concerned with symbolism and hollow phrases and the Dems are “religious” enough for most of the Muslim voters.

    Moreover, Indonesians have the same worries as anyone else, how to improve economic circumstances.

  8. avatar Odinius says:

    The difference is, I don’t think Christian teachings advocated a religious based government (at least the non-jewish stuff), while Islam actually put down a set of rules for governance. If you ask a Muslim, what kind of rules an Islamic country should follow, he’ll point to some texts and say “There you go!”, but if you ask a Christian, well … you can be a democrat, absolute monarch, socialist, fascist, … whatever …

    It’s kinda easier to set up an Islamic state than a Christian one. I dunno, is there any Christian state left in the world besides the Vatican (not much of a state anyway)?

    Take the crazies from PBB and farther off out of the equation (and they are numerically insignificant), as well as the liberals from PKB. Now look at the conservative, Islamic right that remains–PKS, PAN, PPP.

    Now compare these to the Christian right faction within the Republican Party and what their goals are:

    1. the Islamic right in Indonesia wants religious laws to form the basis of state law, or barring that, to use Islamic morality to place social restrictions on the population
    1a. the Christian right in the US wants religious laws to form the basis of state law, or barring that, to use Christian morality to place social restrictions on the population

    2. the Islamic right wants to redefine the state to be a “Muslim” state, with minorities
    2a. the Christian right in the US wants to redefine the state to be a “Christian” state, with minorities

    There are plenty more, but these are the ones I referencing here. As I see it, the principle difference between these two political movements is the fact that the US is an affluent, institutionally-stable country, whereas Indonesia is a developing country whose democratic institutions are still being built and contested.

  9. avatar DumadiSatrio says:

    @Odinius Says:
    Elections always remind me of why I think Indonesia and the United States are similar.

    Hum, made me think for a second…

    In the USA the official motto, written by John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, and Thomas Jefferson, is E Pluribus Unum (“Out of Many, One”)

    maybe they got the idea from Kakawin Sutasoma……”Bhinneka Tunggal Ika

  10. avatar Odinius says:

    Yes, perhaps 🙂

    Of course the comparison goes deeper than just religion. I see similarities on a multitude of levels. People in both the US and Indonesia sometimes look at me funny when I make the comparison, but having lived in both places, it just seems to damned obvious at times!

  11. avatar trane says:

    Two points strike me:

    1) That I predicted wrongly. I had expected much more electoral success for PKS. Not twenty per cent perhaps, but it does surprise me they did not take, say, twelve per cent. I am probably both ignorant and West Java biased.

    2) That the Islamic parties, while not an electoral success, still come off as a political success. On their own terms, that is. I saw Andi Mallarangeng on Al-Jazeera, making the statement about all parties being ‘centrist’. I think this is wrong. I think the centre over the past five years at least has moved significantly in the direction of more regulation of ordinary peoples’ behaviour, in particular the behaviour of religious minorities.

  12. avatar Q says:

    1. the Islamic right in Indonesia wants religious laws to form the basis of state law, or barring that, to use Islamic morality to place social restrictions on the population
    1a. the Christian right in the US wants religious laws to form the basis of state law, or barring that, to use Christian morality to place social restrictions on the population

    2. the Islamic right wants to redefine the state to be a “Muslim” state, with minorities
    2a. the Christian right in the US wants to redefine the state to be a “Christian” state, with minorities

    I see your point, and I agree with this statement … and I think this is true in any country with a religious majority anyway. Sure, maybe both Indonesia and US happen to have roughly the same proportion in this case, but you always have people (in any country) fighting against abortion, euthanasia, gay marriage, … and for intelligent design, but only in the US, I hope.

    Anyway, I wasn’t trying to disagree with your statement, I only used it to jump off at a different direction, namely that Christians should be a bit clueless when they’re talking about a Christian state. Just as there are Christian Rights in the US, there are also Christian Lefts (Jesus was a socialist … something, that someone famous said … can’t remember who). There has been a clear separation of church and state for centuries, and I’m sure it’s rooted in the bible somewhere (the Jesus stuffs, not the Jewish stuffs).

    In Islam however, you can be Sunni or Shia or Salafi, they all believe in the establishment of Sharia law (which doesn’t differ much between the different factions). Islam is a political movement as well as a religion.

    … or let’s put it this way: If Indonesia becomes a Christian state tomorrow … then, I’m not too sure what will change (maybe several thousand dukuns will get burned at the stake, and other usual religious bigotry).

    If Indonesia becomes a Muslim state tomorrow … then many things must change to conform with Sharia (family laws, banking laws, food & dietary regulations, governance, women’s rights, labour laws, etc).

    Anyway, I was going waaaaaay too off-topic sorry.

  13. avatar Odinius says:

    Agree with your assessment about the diversity of Christianity, but think that diversity also applies to Islam. Think historically as well as spatially. The four jurisprudential schools of Islam all differ greatly in their interpretation of sharia, while the numerous manifestations of Shia sharia is different still, as are those of liberal Islamic groups, Salafi literalists, syncretic Muslims and many Sufis.

    The reason it looks like it’s not is that the only ones who actually want to impose sharia on large populations are all from the right-wing end of the spectrum, where there isn’t that much variation. But among the large percentage of Muslims who either don’t want sharia to be the basis of civil and criminal law, or don’t care, you will find a multitude of interpretations of sharia.

    Re: the separation between Church and State…yes it is more common in Christian areas, but it’s not necessarily an integral part of Christian faith. In the Old Testament, there’s no sharp distinction between religious and political power. There is the line in one of the Gospels (I forget which one): “render unto God what is God’s; render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s,” but that’s interpretable in a multitude of ways. One is that State and Church are separate; another is that being a potentate doesn’t make you a King in God’s eyes.

    The oldest Christian state in the world–the Eastern Roman Empire–had a Caesar who was also head of the Church (though there were various patriarchs muddying the waters). Protestant European states all have state Churches, and before the 20th Century many of them were headed by kings.

  14. avatar Abdul Khalid al Jumhuri says:

    Here is my take for Indonesian election lately:

    Voters are smart, politicians are dumb and conceited.
    Voters are pragmatic, politicians are complicated.

    Here is what was posted on the neighbor’s blog:

    Three cheerleaders of a campaign were allegedly interviewed by a reporter.

    “Why do you guys come here?”
    “To get the cash, the free lunch, and to enjoy dancing with celebrities.”
    “Do you know the party’s platform and program?”
    “Don’t be ridiculuous. Of course we don’t care. We are professional campaigners, not politicians. Campaigning is is our bread and butter. This is where we eat, where we got our 40 t-shirts for free, and our having fun dancing and touching the beautiful celebrities. In short election campaign is our paradise. e in Paradise, except that we are not stupid like Adam.”
    “Why is that?”
    “We never let a snake tricks us into voting for him or her.”

    Viva smart voters!

  15. avatar Ross says:

    Yes, we could also mention the Holy Roman Emperor, and the Russian Empire, whose last czar was recently made a saint, I believe. And of course HM Queen Elizabeth is Head of the Church of England and is represented by a Lord High Commissioner in the more democratic affairs of the Church of Scotland.
    America, as per my previous post, was always a Christian country, until that perverse court ruling in the 50s.

    As to the ‘Christian Right’ there, they of course expect, and campaign for the return of, laws based on the standards of morality enshrined in the religion practiced by the vast majority of their citizens (which actually overlaps with similar standards in other religions.) What else should laws be based on, if not the moral perception of the community?

    Yes, I can see that if the citizens of a community were savagely cruel, or in Muslim terms sharia-orientated, this would make for a harsh society, but it was like that in Chrisitian Europe centuries ago. We now live in a more civilised society, with access to modern education available, and so do most Indonesians. Good old internet!

    I personally don’t see Muslims, if allowed, making a choice for barbarism- if that were so, Iran etc would feel free to hold free elections, surely

    Can’t quite see how Jesus was a socialist. He never advocated nationalisation of the carpentry industry, so far as I know. He was compassionate, which is scarcely a socialist monopoly.

  16. avatar Lairedion says:

    The JakPost has an article with, in my view, a fairly good assessment on why the Islamic parties underachieved:

    Voters put Islamist parties in their place

  17. avatar Odinius says:

    That is indeed a good article, Lairedoin…though I’ll quibble with a minor point.

    The article says the Islamic parties were “in range” of their totals in all of Indonesia’s elections, but in 1955, the parties advocating sharia and the Jakarta Charter garnered 40% of the vote.

    The fact that sharia-advocating parties have never passed 20% since 1998 is a sign that Indonesia, as a whole, is much less receptive to these kinds of ideas than it once was.

    Even better that the electorate is further trending away from narrow religious politics.

  18. avatar Berlian Biru says:

    I see that Ross got in before me to rightly point out that really the only constitutionally (if obviously not societally) Christian state in the world is in fact the United Kingdom, where the head of state is the head of the state run official Christian religion and who is not sworn in but rather ‘anointed’ in a deeply religious ceremony in a Christian church and whose legislature has senior Christian prelates sitting by virtue of their religious authority and whose national flag is a combination of Christian crosses.

    People will tell you however that Britain is a secular, multi-cultural nation.

  19. avatar David says:

    Both opinions are from secularists (i dont know about PPP). I think we need more opinions from the fanatics.

    Looking at some of the online opinion (which is going to be pretty pro PKS on balance), like at politikana.com, the opinion on PKS’s failure includes –

    – they sold out, their ads showed women flaunting their aurat, and trannies, tomboys, etc, therefore they alienated their base.

    – secular voters are always going to regard them as radical Muslims so trying to move to the centre was hopeless and didn’t work.

    – lots of university students (PKS’ natural constituency) weren’t registered as voters for some reason

    – they’re split into moderate and Islamist and this lost them votes somehow

    – Hizbut Tahrir Indonesia (HTI), Majelis Mujahidin Indonesia (MMI), Salafists boycotted the election or boycotted PKS because they sold out.

    Incidentally Mr TTT politikana you probably know and they are pumping out about 30 posts a day, all user generated, how do they do it and why can’t I here? Ok I sort of know the reason but interested in your view anyway…

  20. avatar Odinius says:

    I see that Ross got in before me to rightly point out that really the only constitutionally (if obviously not societally) Christian state in the world is in fact the United Kingdom, where the head of state is the head of the state run official Christian religion and who is not sworn in but rather ‘anointed’ in a deeply religious ceremony in a Christian church and whose legislature has senior Christian prelates sitting by virtue of their religious authority and whose national flag is a combination of Christian crosses.

    People will tell you however that Britain is a secular, multi-cultural nation.

    This is actually true of Scandinavia too

  21. avatar Q says:

    This is actually true of Scandinavia too

    Yes, I think Denmark is in the same model. Not sure about Netherlands, Luxembourg, Spain, … I don’t see them affecting the government that much though. I guess instead of a ‘Christian State’ I should have used the word ‘Theocracy’. Wikipedia says there’s only Iran, Saudi Arabia, Vatican, Tibet, Andorra (???), and … Israel …!

    Incidentally Mr TTT politikana you probably know and they are pumping out about 30 posts a day, all user generated, how do they do it and why can’t I here? Ok I sort of know the reason but interested in your view anyway…

    It’s in Indonesian ^_^?

  22. avatar Mr Tic Tac Toe says:

    Tn. Patung, Yth:

    Incidentally Mr TTT politikana you probably know and they are pumping out about 30 posts a day, all user generated, how do they do it and why can’t I here? Ok I sort of know the reason but interested in your view anyway…

    Obviously, Q was right.

    But there are other reasons too.

    Politikana is sponsored and hosted by dagdigdug. If I’m not mistaken, dagdigdug was co-owned by one of tempo’s editors(or journalist? i’m not sure about which term).

    ..and if we trace it deeper, dagdigdug is also supported by a vibrant bloggers community called CahAndong. I am guessing the tempo journalist was also in their community (one of these 3 guys).

    I am quite convinced that they are the core posters on politikana.

    It was a bottom-up process. The community existed first, initially for silly things, then they grew into more serious business.

    Perhaps to their community(and to other communities of the same kind), indonesiamatters is just too serious, too difficult, and no freebies. 🙂

    There is also that security VS identity matters. certainly they don’t want to be crippled by the fundies like that ex-GAM lady, just because they post on sites like this.

    Another thing to note, they have visually more hip design.

  23. avatar zekky says:

    I find the elections confusing:

    if an Islamic party gets highest votes at 30% BUT the rest of the top parties are non-Islamic, then does that mean Indonesia will be ruled by a party that the majority is against?

  24. avatar zekky says:

    I mean, does that mean Indonesia could have sharia law even if most Indos are against?

  25. avatar Odinius says:

    For that scenario to play out, an Islamic party would have had to have gotten 30% of the vote. None did.

    Even then, there’d be that 70% left over…

  26. avatar Mr Tic Tac Toe says:

    Tn. Zekky, Yth:

    if an Islamic party gets highest votes at 30% BUT the rest of the top parties are non-Islamic, then does that mean Indonesia will be ruled by a party that the majority is against?

    If I’m not mistaken, in “Hitler: rise of evil” miniseries, they said Nazi only won 35%.

    In parallel to Indonesia case, the majority might not necessarily against sharia. Not ideologically support it, yes maybe.

    Political Apathy, my friend, is the worst enemy of democracy.

  27. avatar Q says:

    Somehow I am reminded of this quote from Thirteen Days (movie):

    Dobrynin: [to RFK] You’re a good man; your brother is a good man. I assure you there are other good men. Let us hope the will of good men is enough to counter the terrible strength of this thing that was put in motion.

  28. avatar Andy says:

    If anyone honestly thinks religion should be part of the political process, they need their heads read. It has done nothing positive in centuries.

  29. avatar Mr Tic Tac Toe says:

    Perhaps It shouldn’t.

    But we are living in a realistic world, not some sort of dreamland. Adapt!

  30. avatar Peter says:

    Ross, regarding the US founding fathers: “but they were clear it was a Christian country”

    That’s not true; a nation of mostly Christians doesn’t equate to a “Christian country”.

    Article 11 of the 1790 treaty signed at Tripoli (under George Washington): “the government of the United States is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion”

    That sounds pretty clear to me.

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