Secular parties to benefit from Muslim vote

Haeril Halim, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta | National | Wed, December 18 2013, 7:45 AM

Good to go: Officials from the General Election Commission (KPU) and the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) examine registration documents for candidates running in the 2014 legislative election in this file photo. Analysts believe many Muslim voters will vote for secular political parties as they become disillusioned with graft-tainted Islamic parties. (JP/Wendra Ajistyatama)

Analysts have said secular political parties are now vying to woo Muslim voters who were unlikely to vote for Islamic parties given corrupt practices tarnishing the parties’ reputations.

Data shows that after the reform era, Islamic political parties gained a 36.3 percent share of the vote in the 1999 general election and this rose to 41 percent in 2004. The figures, however, plunged to only 29.2 percent in 2009 with only four Islamic parties passing the threshold. Recent pollsters predicted that a further slump in the popularity of Islamic parties in the 2014 general election would be unavoidable.

Ahmad Fuad Fanani of the Maarif Institute for Culture and Humanity said that as Muslims made up the majority of the population, the declining electability of Islamic-based political parties would be a boon for secular parties.

He said that secular political parties were now scrambling to accommodate the aspirations of Muslim voters.

Ahmad said that among the efforts was the support for the establishment of Sharia law in a number of regions as well as nationalist parties’ support for the pornography and alms laws.

“Secular parties want to portray themselves as accommodating. The ruling Democratic Party [PD] for example chaired the Pornography Law task force. The Golkar Party and the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle [PDI-P] also support the establishment of Sharia law in a number of regions, although the PDI-P also has a firm stance against the policy to criminalize the Ahmadiyah,” Ahmad said in a discussion held at Syarif Hidayatullah State Islamic University (UIN) on Tuesday.

“They simply don’t want to be judged as anti-Islam by rejecting the pornography and Sharia laws,”
he said.

A political analyst and executive director of Jakarta-based pollster Indikator Politik Indonesia, Burhanuddin Muhtadi, said that the declining electability of Islamic political parties was the result of
efforts by secular parties to embrace Muslim voters.

He said that secular parties had set up departments that catered to the needs of Muslims.

“[Even] the PDI-P has the Baitul Muslimin,” he said, referring to a wing within the PDI-P to promote the interests of its Muslim members.

He said secular political parties were competing to set up Islamic wing organizations to attract Muslim voters.

The Golkar Party’s Islamic wing organization is called Majelis Dakwah Islamiyah.

Burhanuddin said that Islamic parties had a tough competition ahead.

“If the votes for Islamic parties decline, it means that their targeted voters chose to secular parties. But, if secular parties see a decline in their votes, it means that their targeted voters chose another secular party,” Burhanuddin said.

Senior Golkar Party politician Hajriyanto Y. Thohari said that many voters were tired of campaigns dominated by “Islamic symbolism”.

He said that Islamic parties had not gone beyond the promotion of superficial issues like hijab or the recital of verses from the Koran during their campaigns.

“Before they campaign they make sure that they are wearing Muslim attire and when they greet the crowd it is with the Muslim greeting as-salaam alaikum: making sure their pronunciation is perfect,” he said.

Responding to the slumping popularity of Islamic parties, United Development Party (PPP)
secretary-general Mochammad Romahurmuziy said it was too early to announce the death of Muslim politics.

“Surveys show the declining electability of Islamic parties. It means that people are talking about the parties and are wondering if their electability could improve. It implicitly means they care about Islamic political parties,” he said.

He warned that the disappearance of Islamic parties from the country’s political scene could be dangerous. “It would encourage vigilante groups to deliver their violent aspirations without a political channel,” he said.


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