Antara & Robertus Wardi
A survey released on Tuesday shows that Islamic political parties in Indonesia are losing popularity, attributing the decline to Indonesia’s increasing draw toward political moderates.
The National Survey Institute (LSN) found this month that only 15 percent of respondents (out of a total of 1,230) chose the four “big” Islamic parties, including the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS), National Mandate Party (PAN), United Development Party (PPP) and National Awakening Party (PKB).
This figure represents a sharp decline from the 2009 elections, where the same parties drew 29 percent of the total vote.
“And it is not impossible that it will even drop deeper in the 2014 elections,” Umar S. Bakry, executive director of LSN, told Antara.
Since the end of the Suharto’s regime in 1998, Islamic parties enjoyed as much as 38 percent of the vote.
The LSN survey showed that Golkar (Suharto’s former party) is now the most popular political faction, followed by the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle and the Democratic Party.
The survey also revealed low support for specific politicians from Islamic parties, such as Hidayat Nur Wahid (PKS), Hatta Rajasa (PAN), Muhaimin Iskandar (PKB) and Suryadharma Ali (PPP).
Umar said there are a variety of reasons for the declining popularity.
“The Internal problem is a identity crisis among Islamic political parties and politicians,” he said, adding that external factors include the strengthening secularism in Indonesian politics.
While similar research also shows that Indonesians are growing more religious, politically, they are departing from Islamic ideology.
“The majority of Islamic people in Indonesia tend to be more tolerant, moderate, inclusive and non-sectarian,” Umar said.
PKS Spokesman Bukhori Yusuf said that Indonesians might be reluctant to vote for Islamic parties because they’re worried those parties are courting extremism.
“From what I see, one of the problems is a psychological trauma in Indonesia. Islamic party leadership might be considered as right- wing extremist,” Bukhori said.
PKB Chairman Marwan Jafar attributed the dwindling popularity to “transactional politics.” Indonesian politicians, in other words, no longer believe in ideology, but money.
“Transactional politics has destroyed everything,” he said on Wednesday. “But we’re optimistic that Islamic parties are still strong.”
PPP Secretary General M. Romahurmuzy said on Wednesday that the survey’s results are misleading, claiming that the declining votes can be attributed to middle, or smaller parties. Smaller political parties include the Great Indonesia Movement Party (Gerindra) or the People’s Conscience Party (Hanura).
While Romahurmuzy did not specifically name these groups, he said that middle parties were incapable of providing strong leaders with political experience. He also said the majority of Indonesians, especially those with a low level of education, would vote for parties who have “strong character and experienced leaders.”
“The slow regeneration in political parties, instead of a being problem, has become the benefitting factor in electability,” Romahurmuzy said, referring to the remergence of older and experienced politicians.
Former Chairman of the Crescent Star Party (PBB) Ali Mochtar Ngabali, who has moved to Golkar, conversely said that Islamic parties don’t have worthy products to gather votes.
“The declining support toward Islamic parties is really acceptable,” Ali told tempo.co.