Tag Archives: religion

Indonesia – How Political Chips are Aligning for Presidential and General Elections, 2019

With local elections, 2018, mostly done and dusted, eyes are now turned to presidential and general elections, 2019. The 2019 elections in Indonesia will be the first to be see concurrent legislative and presidential elections since direct elections for the presidency was instituted in 2004. The Constitutional Court ruled in 2014 that sequential timing of these legislative and presidential elections was unconstitutional; notwithstanding, on July 20, 2017, the House passed the bill to maintain party thresholds for nomination of presidential candidates; the new law, which mostly follows the previous law, stipulates that only parties or coalitions with at least 20 percent of the seats in the legislature or 25 percent of the popular vote are able to nominate presidential candidate. To account for the concurrent elections, the new law bases the threshold on the outcome of the 2014 legislative elections, which effectively sets the stage for a rematch between the 2014 presidential contestants, Prabowo Subianto, former general and current chair of the Gerindra Party, and President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo. In the following, I trace political alliances since the 2014 presidential elections to show how the political chips are aligning ahead of the 2019 elections.

The 2014 legislative elections saw 10 parties elected into the lower house of the bicameral legislature. The results for that election were surprising in at least one aspect: no parties achieved the level of popular support needed to run independently for the presidential election in July.[1] Given the nomination threshold, intense jockeying proceeded; these became more heated with contentious challenges against the initial quickcount results following the presidential elections in July 2014.[2] By the time of the presidential inauguration in October, the lines were drawn: as Table 1 below shows, three parties fell into the President’s coalition, the Awesome coalition, while six parties that formed a majority comprised the opposition coalition, the Red-and-White coalition. In the course of year after the presidential election, the Red-and-White coalition posed some real impediments to the president’s agenda; at the same time, however, political parties started to peel away from the opposition coalition. By January 2016, only two parties remained in the Red-and-White opposition coalition: the Gerindra Party and the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS); meanwhile, the President’s coalition had grown from a minority of 207 seats to a majority of 386 seats.

Table 1: Indonesian Parties in the Legislature and allegiances between 2014 and 2018

Party 2014 election results (percent votes won) 2014 allegiance (in October 2014) 2016 allegiances
(in January 2016)
2018 allegiance (as of September)
PDI-P (Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle, presidential nominee President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo) 19 Awesome coalition (President’s coalition) Awesome coalition (President’s coalition)
Nasdem Party (National Democrat Party)  

 

6.6 Awesome coalition (President’s coalition) Awesome coalition (President’s coalition)
Hanura (People’s Conscience party formed in 2006)

 

3.2 Awesome coalition (President’s coalition) Awesome coalition (President’s coalition)
Gerindra (Party Movement Indonesia Raya, presidential nominee is founder Prabowo Subianto)

 

12 Red-and-white coalition (opposition coalition Red-and-white coalition (opposition coalition
Golkar (leading party of the Suharto era)

 

14.9 Red-and-white coalition (opposition coalition Awesome coalition (President’s coalition) Awesome coalition (President’s coalition)
PAN (National Mandate Party) *

 

7.7 Red-and-white coalition (opposition coalition Awesome coalition (President’s coalition) Red-and-white coalition (opposition coalition
PKB (National Awakening Party) *

 

9 Red-and-white coalition (opposition coalition Awesome coalition (President’s coalition) Awesome coalition (President’s coalition)
PPP (United Development Party) *

 

6.3 Red-and-white coalition (opposition coalition Awesome coalition (President’s coalition) Awesome coalition (President’s coalition)
PKS (Prosperous Justice Party) *

 

7 Red-and-white coalition (opposition coalition Red-and-white coalition (opposition coalition
Democratic Party (PD, President Dr. Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono)

 

10 Opposition Opposition In talks with Red-and-white coalition

* Islamic parties

Notwithstanding the President’s majority legislative support, and even though public approval for the President remains at a majority and well ahead of his rival, political turns in the country in 2017 and 2018 suggest weaknesses in the political system or President Jokowi that rivals will exploit.

Foremost among this is religion: religion was used successfully as a strategy to divide the popular vote in the Jakarta gubernatorial elections in 2017, and led to the conviction of former and highly popular governor, Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama, for blasphemy in that highly religiously-charged race.[3] The social media campaign, #2019GantiPresiden (#2019ChangePresident) campaign, initiated by the PKS party in early 2018, echoes the anti-Ahok campaign where opposition was aimed at undermining the incumbent candidate rather than providing viable alternatives.

President Jokowi has responded by picking Ma’ruf Amin, chairman of the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI), the country’s top Muslim clerical body that comprises all registered Muslim organizations. While Ma’ruf’s religious standing strengthens considerably the President’s position in the Muslim community, his convictions are also fiercely orthodox. Indeed, as the chairman of the MUI, Ma’ruf signed a document recommending that the statement Ahok made be considered “blasphemous” for insulting Islam, and he advocates for the criminalization of gay sex.

Meanwhile, Prabowo has officially entered the presidential race with Jakarta Deputy Governor Sandiaga Uno, also of the Gerindra Party, as his running mate. Prabowo has been courting the Democratic Party to enhance popular, if not legislative support: polls show the candidate at a distinct disadvantage against President Jokowi this time around. While former President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has yet to commit his support for the pair, he has gone so far as to make clear that his relations with PDI-P’s chair, former President Megawati, impedes any coalition with the President.

Clearly, elections in this third largest democracy in the world, then, remains one to keep watch.

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[1] Yap, O. Fiona. 2014. “Indonesia – Preliminary Results of the April 2014 Legislative Elections.” https://presidential-power.com/?p=1054 April 11, 2014 <accessed 3 September 2018>

[2] Yap, O. Fiona. 2014. “Indonesia – Transparency and Accountability in the Presidential Elections 2014.” https://presidential-power.com/?p=1612 July 14, 2014 <accessed 3 September 2018>

[3] Yap, O. Fiona. 2017. “Indonesia – The Jakarta Gubernatorial Election, Politics, and the 2019 Presidential Elections.” https://presidential-power.com/?p=6369 April 27, 2017 <accessed 3 September 2018>

Indonesia – If all politics is local, then 2018 elections suggest a tight race in 2019

Indonesia held local elections on June 27, 2018, for 17 governors, 39 mayors and 115 regents. Official results are expected to be released by July 9, 2018. Quick count results show that candidates with the support of President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) have edged out the competition; however, these are not robust successes. In particular, while the results show that candidates supported by or who support President Jokowi taking three of the four most populous regions in the country, some of the victories are narrow and carry caveats. These results suggest a conservative turn that could spell a stiff 2019 electoral competition for President Jokowi as he tries to win a second term. The following details the contests in these four populous regions in the country: West, East and Central Java, and North Sumatra.

West Java elected former mayor Bandung governor Ridwan Kamil, over former army general Sudrajat, supported by Gerindra, and West Java Vice Governor and veteran actor Deddy Mizwar, supported by Golkar. The PDI-P supported candidate, TB Hasanuddin, was trounced in that contest. Ridwan Kamil is a reformist candidate supported by the Islamic parties of the United Development Party (PPP), and the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS), as well as NasDem and Hanura. PPP and Hanura have endorsed President Jokowi as presidential candidate, but not the PKS; meanwhile, Ridwan himself has  voiced support for President Jokowi. That support takes the sting out of the PDI-P loss; however, it also underscores the ring of religion in elections.

Incumbent Central Java Governor Ganjar Pranowo, supported by PDI-P, is predicted to win over former Energy and Mineral Resources minister Sudirman Said, who is supported by Gerindra. While the win hands a victory to President Jokowi, quick count results also show a narrower-than-predicted win over Sudirman: Sudirman won around 40 percent of the votes in the province, quadrupling predictions of 6-8 percent going into the race.

In Eastern Java, former social affairs minister Khofifah Indar Parawansa, who has pledged support for President Jokowi, looks set to take the seat over her opponent, Saifullah Yusuf.

Voters in North Sumatra appear to have chosen retired army general Edy Rahmayadi, who is backed by Gerindra, over former Jakarta governor Djarot Syaiful Hidayat, who is backed by the PDI-P and its coalition. That race is reminiscent of the themes of religious and conservative intolerance in the Jakarta elections in 2017,[1] with doctored photos of Djarot served a pig’s head at a banquet. Edy’s win, then, underlines the continued threat and hold of religious or conservative intolerance in electoral races.

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[1] Yap, O. Fiona. 2017. “Indonesia – The Jakarta Gubernatorial Election, Politics, and the 2019 Presidential Elections.” Presidential Power, https://presidential-power.com/?p=6369 April 27, 2017 <last accessed July 2, 2018>

Indonesia – What lies ahead for Presidential Elections 2019?

On 23 February, the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) officially nominated President Joko Widodo, popularly known as President Jokowi, as its presidential candidate for the 2019 elections. The 2019 elections will be the first where both legislative and presidential elections are held on the same day since direct elections for the presidency was instituted in 2004. The latest reform follows a Constitutional Court ruling in January 2014, from a challenge to the Presidential Election Law, Law No. 42/2008, that governed the nomination and election of presidential candidates. The Presidential Election Law had stipulated that elections for legislative and presidential elections be held at least three months apart, so that only parties or coalitions that received 25 percent of the national vote or 20 percent of the parliamentary seats are able to field presidential candidates. The Court ruled that this sequential timing was unconstitutional; however, it left the legislature to decide on whether the thresholds for nomination should remain. On July 20, 2017, some 534 of the 560 lawmakers – an estimated 95.4 percent – attended a plenary session to pass the bill to maintain the thresholds. The attendance is testimonial to the significance of the bill: plenary sessions usually see less than half of the representatives of the House present. By the new law, only parties or coalitions with at least 20 percent of the seats in the legislature or 25 percent of the popular vote based on the outcome of the 2014 legislative elections are able to nominate presidential candidates. What lies ahead for the coming 2019 Presidential elections?

The threshold will certainly limit the number of candidates running for elections. So far, only President Jokowi’s candidacy has been formally announced. The President’s candidacy is supported by the National Democratic Party as well as Golkar, if not the other parties of the ruling Awesome Indonesia coalition that include the Hanura Party, the PAN (National Mandate Party), and the PPP (United Development Party). This is a big change from the 2014 elections, when the PDI-P’s surprise failure to garner the support needed to meet the threshold gave it a late start in the political jockeying among parties. Prabowo Subianto of the Gerindra party, the other presidential candidate in the 2014 elections, looks set to run as a candidate again, supported by Gerindra and the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS), and particularly following the recent win by Anies Baswedan – the candidate supported by the Gerindra party-supported– in the Jakarta gubernatorial elections. There is talk of Anies Baswedan running for elections himself, replicating President Jokowi’s strategy back in 2014, although he will clearly need the backing of a number of parties in order to cross that threshold.

An issue that will undoubtedly surface in the presidential elections is religious divisions. Religious-based parties have kept a firm hold on the electorate: indeed, in the 2014 elections, Islamic parties reported better-than-expected results that contradicted expectations of significant setbacks to religion-based parties. Even the PKS (Prosperous Justice Party), which had been caught in a sex-and-corruption scandal, lost only about 1 percent of popular support from the previous election.[1] Religion was also used successfully as a strategy to divide the popular vote in the Jakarta elections: Governor Anies had sought the support of Islamist groups, including militant groups such as the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI), known for hard-line stances and attacks against minorities, during the campaign. The former and highly popular governor, Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama, who was running as the incumbent, had his election-bid upended when he was charged, and subsequently convicted, of blasphemy against the Qu’ran. Meanwhile, religiously motivated attacks have been on the rise in Indonesia, prompting the legislature to pass the President’s Perppu to ban organizations that did not support Indonesia’s ideology of Pancasila. That law has been used to disband extremist hard-line Islamist groups, such as the Hizbut Tahrir; however, critics are concerned that the law gives the government the right to disband organizations without due process of law.

As the world’s third largest democracy, and a country with the largest Muslim population in the world, many will undoubtedly be intently watching the local elections in 2018, and general elections in 2019, to see how Indonesia fares amid stalling democratization and even reversals in East and Southeast Asia.

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[1] Yap, O. Fiona. 2014. “Indonesia – Preliminary Results of the April 2014 Legislative Elections.” https://presidential-power.com/?p=1054 April 11, 2014 <accessed 5 March 2018>