JAKARTA: Indonesia’s Muslim parties enjoyed a surprise jump in support at legislative elections this week, but analysts put it more down to anger with a corrupt ruling party than the growing popularity of political Islam.
Surveys had predicted that the five Islamic parties running at the polls in the world’s most populous Muslim-majority country would see their support slip further after years of decline.
While there have been increasing signs of Islam in Indonesian public life since the 1998
downfall of dictator Suharto—such as more women wearing the head–scarf—Islamic-based parties saw their support wane.
But this picture unexpectedly changed at Wednesday’s polls.
Combined support for the parties rose to 32 percent from 26 percent in 2009, according to an unofficial tally by the CSIS think-tank.
Some of the parties, such as the National Awakening Party (PKB) with more than 9.0 percent, may now play important roles in forming a coalition after July presidential polls.
Analysts said much of the shift was from the repeated failures of the secular parties to tackle endemic graft while in power, in particular the De–mocratic Party of President Susilo Bam–bang Yudhoyono.
“The failure to deliver clean government really does open the door to a pious message,” professor Jeffrey Winters, an Indonesia expert from Northwestern University in the United States, told Agence France-Presse.
Secular govern–ments have failed in the country “round after round,” he added.
This failure has been painfully clear in recent years as the party of Yudhoyono, who stormed to a second term in 2009 on a corruption-fighting platform, has been hit by repeated graft scandals.
The party saw its popularity halve to around 10 percent at the elections, and analysts believe many of its votes went to Islamic parties. The Democrats were only a fraction above the PKB, the best-performing Islamic party.