Book chapter

Islamism and Party Politics in Indonesia (2019)

in: Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Politics

Abstract

The inclusion-moderation theory posits that radical parties will abandon their most extreme goals and become more moderate in ideology and behavior if they are included in competitive electoral politics. The case of Indonesia confirms many assumptions of this theory, demonstrating that Islamist parties can indeed become more moderate as a result of their inclusion in formal electoral politics. Certain supporting conditions, however, may need to be in place, and even if moderation does occur it may not always be conducive to the quality of democracy.In Indonesia, the first experiment with including Islamist parties in electoral politics in the 1950s failed, but when democracy was eventually restored in 1998, the evolution of the two main Islamist parties that established themselves in the party system followed what proponents of the inclusion-moderation theory would expect. Both the United Development Party (Partai Persatuan Pembangunan) and the Prosperous Justice Party (Partai Keadilan Sejahtera) abandoned their original goals of turning Indonesia into an Islamic state based on sharia law. Like other radical parties in similar political contexts, they moderated in response to institutional incentives and immersion in parliamentary and cabinet politics. By the time Indonesia started preparing for the 2019 elections, both parties were basically mainstream conservative Islamic parties, which, in view of their behavioral and to a lesser extent ideological moderation, should no longer be considered Islamist parties.However, the moderation of these parties has not led to a deepening of Indonesian democracy. On the contrary, while Islamist parties moved to the center, ostensibly secular parties moved increasingly to the right, supporting religiously conservative initiatives and policies, and forming alliances with Islamist actors outside the party spectrum. Thus, Indonesia underwent a process of Islamization despite the moderation of its Islamist parties.