International,  Islamism

Indonesia’s Islamic parties lose half their support

Encouraging news from the general elections in the world’s largest Muslim-majority nation:

The big losers seem to be the Islamic parties. In 2004, they got almost 40 percent of the votes, but this year their support is only half of that figure. A question of loss of confidence, says [Radio Netherlands’ correspondent] Michel Maas: “Many people voted for these Islamic parties because they were supposed to be ‘clean’, rather than corrupt. But in recent years we have seen many corruption scandals in which members of these Islamic parties were involved. The voters simply don’t trust them anymore.”

Even observant Muslims intended to vote for secular parties, The Washington Post reported before the election:

Ismi Safeya is a student at an Islamic school who veils her hair for modesty, prays five times a day and is inspired by the idea of a society based on Muslim principles.

But when the 18-year-old casts her vote for the first time in parliamentary elections Thursday, she won’t vote for an Islamist party.

“The wisest choice is a government not dependent on Islamic law,” she said, acknowledging the religious diversity of Indonesia and arguing that rules must be fair for everyone. “Islam actually guides our lives, but it doesn’t seem to be shown in the way we vote.”

Like Safeya, most voters here in the world’s largest majority-Muslim country are expected to cast their ballots for secular parties. As political Islam gains strength globally, it has achieved little electoral success in Indonesia. Though polls show Indonesians becoming more religiously observant in their private lives, surveys also suggest this shift will not translate into significant support for Islamist politics in parliamentary elections Thursday or in presidential elections scheduled for July.

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