Identity politics looms over Indonesia’s presidential election


Writer: Deasy Simandjuntak, ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute

The 2019 Indonesian presidential election might be a two-horse race between the present President Joko ‘Jokowi’ Widodo and his 2014 contender, former normal Prabowo Subianto. Amid speculations that the 2019 election might be extra in regards to the economic system than identification politics, the Islamic rallies in different Indonesian towns over the last few weeks display that the possibility of spiritual campaigning and sectarian mobilisation remains to be lurking.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo shakes hands with his vice-presidential running mate for the 2019 presidential election Islamic cleric Ma'ruf Amin while greeting supporters in Jakarta, Indonesia, 10 August 2018 (Photo: Reuters/Darren Whiteside).

Those rallies, dubbed ‘Protecting the Tauhid Motion’ have been organised via the Nationwide Motion to Safeguard Fatwas (GNPF). They have been brought about via an incident in October 2018, the place contributors of the formative years wing of the Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), Indonesia’s biggest Islamic organisation and a supporter of Jokowi, burnt a flag bearing the Islamic declaration of religion. All the way through the rallies to protest the flag’s burning, there have been calls of ‘ganti presiden’ (trade the president) as some protesters tried to attach the rallies to the election marketing campaign.

Each presidential applicants take the possibility of identification politics that includes within the marketing campaign very critically. Jokowi has appointed the conservative and senior Islamic pupil Ma’ruf Amin as his vice-presidential candidate. And in mid-September 2018 Prabowo signed a pact with conservative Islamic students and Muslim activists at a congregation of the GNPF, the organiser of the new rallies.

With Amin at the price ticket, Jokowi has a robust instrument to mobilise identification politics must he make a selection to take action. Till not too long ago, Amin used to be each the rais ‘aam (splendid chief) of the NU, a champion of average Islam, and chairman of the extra conservative-leaning Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI).

Amin used to be at the back of the 2005 fatwa in opposition to Indonesia’s Ahmadiyah Muslim minority staff and used to be key knowledgeable witness in an ordeal that despatched Jakarta’s former Chinese language-Christian governor Basuki ‘Ahok’ Tjahaja Purnama — then Jokowi’s closest best friend — to prison for blasphemy in 2017. The blasphemy fatwa turned into the raison d’être for the GNPF and consolidated an enormous Islamist mobilisation in opposition to Ahok. This mobilisation — supported via Prabowo’s camp, which championed Ahok’s opponent Anies Baswedan within the April 2017 Jakarta gubernatorial election — marked the end result of identification politics in Indonesia’s post-reform technology.

It’s transparent that the President hopes that Amin’s nomination will defend him from the possibility of Prabowo’s camp launching a sectarian marketing campaign in opposition to him and save you conservative electorate from overwhelmingly siding with Prabowo.

Relatively than actively mobilising non secular sentiments, Amin’s first strikes as vice-presidential candidate had been geared at restricting the opposite camp’s alternatives for a sectarian marketing campaign. Regardless of being instructed to surrender from each the NU and the MUI, Amin most effective resigned from the NU and didn’t surrender his MUI chairmanship. That is most likely for the reason that NU (save for the ones within the organisation’s conservative ‘NU true trail’ or garis lurus faction) is already slightly forged in its beef up for Jokowi. The MUI is extra nuanced in its political stance, with some leaders to start with being concerned within the GNPF and attached to events that beef up Prabowo. Amin’s choice to retain his MUI chairmanship might be aimed toward curtailing the Council from leaning in opposition to Prabowo’s facet.

Amin may be pushing for the Islamic idea of wasatiyyah (center approach), which in Indonesia refers back to the apply of average Islam. NU’s doctrine of Islam Nusantara — the appliance of Islam inside of Indonesia’s socio-cultural context — upholds an identical average values. However Islam Nusantara’s branding as a predominantly NU doctrine would possibly make it unattractive to non-NU contributors. The wasatiyyah is deemed extra accommodative to Indonesian Muslims from more than a few traditions.

Amin will center of attention his marketing campaign in areas the place Jokowi misplaced in 2014. Those come with the religiously homogenous Aceh, West Sumatra and West Java, which can be identified to be Prabowo’s strongholds. In West Java’s 2018 gubernatorial election, the fewer well-liked candidate subsidized via the Wealthy Justice Celebration (PKS) and Nice Indonesia Motion Celebration (Gerindra) nearly gained because of religiously charged campaigning. North Sumatra’s 2018 gubernatorial election used to be additionally ruled via identification politics and gained via applicants supported via PKS and Gerindra. Jokowi’s camp hopes that Amin will be capable of draw in non secular electorate in those provinces.

The hot rallies display that regardless of Amin’s nomination, Jokowi remains to be vulnerable to ‘assaults’ via Islamic teams that experience pledged allegiance to his opponent, such because the GNPF. The friction between the opposing teams, when annoyed, may just probably result in a sour sectarian marketing campaign subsequent yr.

Every other vital query is whether or not partnering with a innovative president will regulate Amin’s ideological point of view past the marketing campaign season. Regardless of Amin’s efforts to intensify moderatism — as an example via visiting church buildings whilst campaigning in North Sumatra — there are issues that Amin’s unfavorable stance on Muslim minorities just like the Ahmadiyah and Shia stay unchanged.

Fresh instances such because the blasphemy fees in opposition to a lady who complained in regards to the quantity of the loudspeakers at a mosque and the pressured closure of church buildings via hard-line teams proceed to problem the rustic’s dedication to spiritual tolerance. Whether or not Amin will actually attempt to do something positive about Indonesia’s long-standing factor of non secular discrimination is one thing to control because the marketing campaign heats up.

Deasy Simandjuntak is an Affiliate Fellow within the Regional Strategic and Political Research Program on the ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute.



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