Political Islam played a significant role behind Prabowo's run in the 2019 presidential election. (Antara Photo/Hafidz Mubarak A.)

Four Main Factions to Vie for Power in Indonesian Politics Until Next Election: Denny J.A.

JULY 03, 2019

Jakarta. Indonesia completed arguably its most divisive elections in April but political experts have warned that clashes between different political groups are unlikely to abate anytime soon. 

The current political status quo will have to compete with political Islam, 1945 Constitution revivalists and human rights campaigners to vie for power in the next five years, pollster and political consultant Denny J.A. said on Tuesday.

"Political disputes will continue. Mutual bashing will continue until the 2024 presidential election," he said.

The four aforementioned groups were heavily involved in the last presidential election. According to Denny, even if Jokowi and Prabowo end up forming a coalition after the election, the ideological battle between these groups will continue. It will only stop if the groups lose their followers.

The first group is the so-called political reformists. These are the politicians currently in power, including President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo.

The first reformist president was B.J. Habibie, who took over from New Order dictator Suharto after the May 1998 Reformasi. All the presidents after him, Abdurrahman Wahid, Megawati Soekarnoputri, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and Jokowi took after the legacy of Reformasi.  

"Political reformation is a spin on democracy typical of Indonesia. We have political freedom and economic freedom. Citizens have the same rights, regardless of their religion," Denny said.

However, unlike in a Western-style democracy, Denny pointed out, religion still plays a big role in Indonesian society. This is one of the reasons why Indonesia still has a Ministry of Religious Affairs. 

The reformists are the current status quo. This group includes election winners the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle – Jokowi's main political backer – and the Golkar Party as well as religious minority groups.

In the 2019 presidential election, most of this group's supporters rallied behind Jokowi.

But they did not win without facing stiff competition from three other groups that will continue to challenge them until the next election, Denny said.

The first of these is political Islam. According to Denny, adherents of this ideology want more Islamic laws to be incorporated into public life – be it as part of an Islamic state, a caliphate, or as sharia laws implemented in the legal system of the republic.

Denny said supporters of this ideology think the current status quo is too secular and too liberal. The main promoters of this ideology are the hardline Islamic Defenders Front and the disbanded Hizbut Tahrir Indonesia

Islamic groups played a significant role behind Prabowo Subianto's failed bid for the presidency in 2019. 

The second group challenging the status quo, according to Denny, is the so-called "1945 Constitution revivalists." This group wants the government to go back to the original version of the Constitution before it was extensively amended after Reformasi. 

This group detests the current political and economic system. Politically, they think it is too liberal, and economically, they think the government gives too much leverage to foreign companies.

The main proponents of this group are Army veterans led by Let. Gen. Suryadi and former military commander Djoko Santoso. Both of them were Prabowo's supporters in the last election. 

The last group in Indonesia's mainstream political constellation comprises human rights campaigners who often lambast the Jokowi administration for its failure in resolving long-standing cases of human rights violations

If political Islam considers the Jokowi government too liberal, human rights campaigners say the president is not liberal enough. They have also often railed at Jokowi for not doing much to protect free speech in Indonesia, Denny said. 

One of the more prominent members of this group is activist Harry Azhar, who publicly announced his abstention in the last election. "He also criticized Prabowo for his bad human rights record," Denny said.