Indonesia's election a triumph of pragmatism over ideology, moderate
Muslims over radical Islamists
Michael Allen, - United States

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Wednesday, April 29, 2009
The results of this month's legislative
elections in the world's largest Muslim-majority nation are not due
until May 9. But it is already clear that Indonesia's 100 million voters
demonstrated a markedly pragmatic, non-ideological approach to politics,
not least in delivering "devastating setbacks" to Islamist parties:
In broad brush strokes, what this election thus suggests about
Indonesian society is that the emotional draw of ideology, religion,
charismatic leadership, and social controversy has begun to decline as
concerns about good governance, fiscal accountability, and government
professionalism have risen. The problem that Indonesia faces no longer
stems from its past social and cultural divisions. Rather, the danger at
hand reflects the fragmentation of a political elite that has yet to
understand the interests of voters while failing to grasp the nature of
the new democratic playing field. 
Analyst Richard Kraince suggest that politicians' reactions to likely
losses and to some "grave errors" by the National Election Commission
will demonstrate whether "
Indonesian exceptionalism" is as robust as it seems or whether the
archipelago's democracy will go the way of some of its dysfunctional
The election results confirm that
elections.html> Islam and democracy are compatible, writes Ahmad Suaedy,
executive director of Jakarta's Wahid Institute. The radical Islamist
parties failed because "exclusive Islamic ideologies are no longer able
to meet the needs of those concerned about the existence of such Islamic
parties or of those who still place hopes in the promise that
ideological realization can change Indonesian state foundations."
Yet others remain concerned that as
<> talks to
form a governing coalition continue, the mainstream parties may be
tempted to strike a deal with the Islamist Prosperous Justice Party
(PKS) which, though ostensibly non-violent, espouses an intolerant brand
of Islam, informed by Wahhabi ideology, at odds with Indonesia's
syncretic civil Islam.  <> Sadanand
Dhume cites the
Book%20Launch%20Press%20Release%20-%20Final.pdf> "pathbreaking" new
report by the  <> Libforall
Foundation which, he notes, demonstrates that the "PKS continues its
effort to  <>
infiltrate mainstream Islamic organizations, and to replace Indonesia's
tolerant, homespun Islam with an arid import from the Middle East."
The  <> Libforall Foundation is one
of the  <>
rare success stories of an initiative in which moderate and liberal
Muslims - too often the silent and disorganized majority - have
organized effectively to counter radical Islamist groups by promoting
democracy and tolerance. "Truth, which is not organized, can be readily
defeated by evil that is," former Indonesian President H.E. Kyai Haji
Abdurrahman Wahid in the Libforall report,
mic%20State%20English%20Excerpts.pdf> The Illusion of an Islamic State:
the Expansion of Transnational Islamist Movements to Indonesia.
The elections confirm the country's potential as a standard-bearer for
liberal democratic ideas in a region where it has recently appeared
fragile and in which China represents a significant authoritarian
countervailing power. "If Indonesia was to start
onal-dividend.html> investing in the propagation of these ideas, it
could contribute to regional peace and security," notes one observer,
citing as a positive sign President Yudho-yono's launch of the
op-or-catalyst-for-change.html> Bali Democracy Forum "aimed at
enshrining democracy on the strategic agenda of Asia".
gmatism-over-ideology-moderate-muslims-over-radical-islamists.html> The







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