Indonesia Islamic parties in surprise gains


Indonesia-Islamic-Parties-Make-Surprise-GainsJAKARTA – Despite expectations of a huge fall in their popularity, Indonesia’s Islamic parties are poised to grab almost a third of votes in Wednesday’s general elections, reserving an influential role in July’s presidential elections.

“This confirms that 30 percent support is a natural level for (Islamic parties) as there are still some parts of the country where they remain popular,” Douglas Ramage, political analyst at Bower Group Asia consultancy, told Reuters on Wednesday evening, April 9.


As first signs of Wednesday’s vote appeared, a quick count by think-tank CSIS said that the country’s five Islamic-based national parties looked to have grabbed a combined 32 percent share of the national vote.

The share, if confirmed, would be larger than that in 2009 elections when the five parties combined secured 28% of votes.

Though Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) emerged as Indonesia’s biggest Islamic party in 2009, it saw a slight decline in its share of the vote from 2009 with 7 percent, CSIS said.

Islamic parties’ growth in Indonesia followed the fall of the long authoritarian rule of dictator Suharto. The dictator, who supported secularism, was against the strong influence of Islam in public life.

On the other hand, the elections early results have put the country in a political uncertainty after the main opposition party, Indonesian Democratic Party-Struggle (PDI-P), won just less than 20 percent of the votes in the parliamentary election.

The legislative elections, the fourth in Indonesia since the downfall of the three-decade Suharto dictatorship in 1998, are important because they decide who can run at presidential polls on July 9.

Political parties must secure at least 25 percent of the national vote on Wednesday or 20 percent of the 560 seats in parliament to be able to field a candidate in July’s presidential ballot.

There are only 12 parties running compared with 38 in the last election in 2009.

Influential Role

Giving PDI-P the biggest percentage of any party, Wednesday’s parliamentary election put the party below a threshold needed to nominate its own presidential candidate.

“The next step for us is to look at which other parties we can cooperate with,” said PDI-P vice secretary general Eriko Sotarduga.

“We are talking with many parties right now.”

Amid current circumstances, Islamic parties such as PKB and the National Mandate Party (PAN) were expected to play influential roles as the larger political groups look to form coalitions.

“(Islamic parties) have no track record of cooperating with each other,” Todung Mulya Lubis, chairman of the executive board of Transparency International in Indonesia, told Reuters.

“But in terms of negotiating with other parties, to have more bargaining power, they will have to rethink that.”

Indonesia is the most populous Muslim state where Muslims make up 80% percent of the 220 million population.



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