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Inspiration from Joko's re-election

  • The Joko-Maruf win should serve as a stern warning to our Barisan Nasional not to go down the conservative religious path or risk losing the support of majority moderate voters. Photo courtesy: Bernama

Sin Chew Daily

Joko Widodo is almost certain to get re-elected according to an Indonesian election quick count, winning nearly 55% of votes.

He being an advocate of moderate politics, many have been able to breathe a sigh of relief with this outcome.

Indonesia is a major power in the region and its culture and religion have had a significant impact on Malaysia; so are its political developments.

Imagine if his rival Prabowo Subianto, a firebrand Islamist and exclusionist, were to win the election, he would not only dictate the way the vast archipelagic nation will be ruled but could even embolden radical nationalists over here in Malaysia.

The son-in-law of former dictator Suharto, Prabowo committed a fair deal of iniquities violating the principles of democracy and human rights through the military and political powers in his hands in the 1990s.

His political career did not end with the fall of the Suharto regime. In its stead, he was prepared to rule again, having successfully roped in the support of conservative hardline Islamic sects to form a powerful conservative and religious force in Indonesia.

About a week before the polls, his camp staged a mammoth rally in Jakarta's largest stadium that saw an overwhelming attendance of one million people, as the organizers claimed. Non-partisan media put the participation at 150,000. To be honest, even 100,000 was astounding enough.

Political observers warned that the rise of Prabowo might signal a shift towards conservatism and Islamization.

Religious overtone reigned supreme at the rally, with clerics praying for the downfall of Joko administration.

Doesn't this sound familiar? The same has been practiced by our PAS in every election, something that has started here but is gaining a huge momentum in Indonesia.

By contrast, Joko champions diversity and accommodativeness towards people from different ethnic and religious backgrounds. The government he leads has over the past five years expedited the country's economic and infrastructural development.

But, does his victory conclude that Indonesia is making a steady headway in moderation and pluralism?

The reality may not be this straightforward.

What concerns most people is that polarization has begun to show up in the Indonesian society, with the upholding of the Pancasila spirit on one side and further Islamization on the other.

Reassuringly, pluralism remains the choice of majority of Indonesians, but the worrisome fact is that the setback of conservatives may only be momentary and could swell in the future.

The gap in their influences could narrow down towards the next election and could even be reversed!

Moreover, observers almost unanimously agree that Joko's triumph to a certain extent has been established upon his compromise with Islamism.

For instance, he picked Maruf Amin, the Islamic cleric who started the blasphemy campaign against former Jakarta mayor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, as his running mate.

The selection of Maruf to some extent has shielded him from “anti-Islam” stray bullets, winning him the votes of moderate Islamists.

Joko's triumph must not be interpreted as pluralism having defeated religionism in Indonesia, but rather his clever integration of pluralism and moderate Islamism in a bid to take down conservatism and religious radicalism.

Perhaps in future Indonesia under Joko Widodo may be obliged to incorporate more Islamic elements to satisfy the Muslims' need for broader political religionization.

Similarly, the tie-up between Umno and PAS in Malaysia is a marriage between Malay nationalism and Islamism.

In Indonesia, Prabowo's Great Indonesia Movement Party (Gerindra) has teamed up with Islamist parties such as PKS, PAN as well as radical religious outfits in the likes of FPI and HTI.

Prabowo's miscalculation and electoral setback could perhaps provide some kind of warning to our Barisan Nasional not to go down the conservative religious path or risk losing the support of moderate voters.

In a similar manner, the Joko-Maruf win may also serve as an inspiration to our Pakatan Harapan government.


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