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The Jakarta Post
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Islamic parties looking to attract secular voters

  • Margareth S. Aritonang

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta | Wed, January 23 2013 | 10:36 am

With various pollsters predicting a gloomy outlook in the upcoming elections, Muslim-based political parties are preparing strategies to appeal to the country’s increasingly secular voters.

The Prosperous Justice Party (PKS), the largest Islamic party, said it would focus on boosting its performance and image as a clean party.

“I think all political parties competing in the upcoming elections are facing the same problem, which is the decline of public trust. All parties share this problem due to the number of politicians implicated in corruption cases, as well as other scandals,” Hidayat Nur Wahid, leader of the PKS faction at the House of Representatives said recently.

He added that changing the PKS’ ideology would do nothing to boost the party’s popularity if it failed to prove its commitment to good governance and corruption eradication.

The National Mandate Party (PAN) is planning to be less visually Islamic and more inclusive during campaigns to get more voters; regardless of ethnicity or religion. The party’s secretary, Teguh Juwarno, told The Jakarta Post that the party would no longer use Islamic attributes in the upcoming elections as more non-Muslims have joined the party since 2009.

“We have Buddhist and Catholic lawmakers from Kalimantan and East Nusa Tenggara. In particular, our supporters in urban areas are mostly non-Muslims. Therefore, we will promote education and development in the future campaign instead of issues concerning religion,” he said.

National Awakening Party (PKB) executive Abdul Malik Haramain said the party never introduced itself as an exclusive Islamic party even though the majority of supporters are Muslims.

Nonetheless, Haramain said that PKB would enhance the number of non-Muslim members of the party in order to develop the party’s inclusivity in the future.

“We will open our door to non-Muslim members in order to widely promote the party’s values and commitment. We do have non-Muslim members, some of whom are leaders at the regional councils, especially in the country’s eastern areas,” he said.

The United Development Party (PPP) said it would remain an exclusive Islamic party despite its declining popularity. PPP executive Arwani Thomafi said his party would only nominate Muslims to run in the 2014 legislative elections.

“I believe those who share the dream for a better future in this country will not be troubled our ideology,” he said.

PKS, PAN, PPP and PKB are among the ten parties contesting in the legislative election slated for April next year. Previous opinion polls by the Indonesian Survey Circle (LSI) and the Saiful Mujani Research & Consulting (SMRC) predicted major Islam-based parties would secure less than five percent of vote if the elections were to take place at the time of the survey. The implosion of Muslim-based political parties had been effected by voters put off by vigilante activism by Muslim linked groups, such as the Islam Defenders Front (FPI) and the growing fear of efforts to introduce Islamic law in some parts of the country


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