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Counter-polarisation and political expediency – New Mandala

In March 2022, Muhammad Qodari, the excessive profile govt director of Indo Barometer survey institute grabbed headlines by proposing that President Joko Widodo (Jokowi) and his former presidential rival and now Minister of Defence Prabowo Subianto run on a joint ticket for the 2024 presidential election.  He argued that this could unify the nation and “polarisation would disappear”.

Politicians and students have repeatedly warned of the hazards that polarisation, particularly of a non secular nature, poses to Indonesian democracy.  Deepening cleavages between non secular communities that had been as soon as on civil phrases are seen as contributing to a political tradition of intolerance and democratic illiberalism.

However prior to now three years, a brand new development has emerged which could finest be labelled “counter-polarisation”.  On this improvement, politicians and their events undertake initiatives or manoeuvres within the identify of lowering polarisation and easing intra-communal tensions.  This often includes events that had been as soon as on opposing sides of the political divide agreeing to cooperate or coalesce.  Not uncommonly, that is hailed as a transfer to revive nationwide cohesion and strengthen democracy.

The primary and most putting instance of this was the choice of Prabowo Subianto, the shedding candidate within the 2014 and 2019 presidential elections, to affix Joko Widodo’s new cupboard in October 2019 as Defence Minister, regardless of having campaigned generally rancorously towards his rival.  Certainly one of Prabowo’s justifications for this abrupt about-face was the necessity to heal divisions between his and Jokowi’s supporters.

Since then, related arguments have been used to dealer offers that deliver collectively seemingly disparate electoral candidates or events.  One such case is Qodari’s proposed Jokowi-Prabowo joint ticket, which proved particularly controversial as a result of it could require a constitutional modification to permit Jokowi to face for a 3rd time period. Critics stated altering the structure for this function could be democratically regressive. Qodari argued that so nice was the specter of polarisation that extending the presidential time period restrict was justified.  One other proposal referred to as for Prabowo, who beforehand drew sturdy Islamist assist, to run with Puan Maharani, from the nationalist Indonesian Democratic Celebration of Wrestle (PDI-P). In the identical spirit, the chairman of the NasDem get together instructed that Ganjar Pranowo, the Central Java governor who represents the nationalist camp, take as his working mate Jakarta governor Anies Baswedan, who attracts sturdy Islamist assist.

Jokowi-Prabowo political reconciliation as Javanese technique

The underpinning politics between Jokowi and Prabowo reveals a deeper complexity throughout the Indonesian election.

Events additionally used “bridge constructing” arguments to assist a flurry of latest alliances and proposed coalitions.  Two Islamic events—the United Growth Celebration (PPP) and the Nationwide Mandate Celebration (PAN)—coalesced with the nationalist Golkar in Might 2022, and extra just lately the Islamist Affluent Justice Celebration (PKS), launched alliance talks with the religiously impartial NasDem and the reasonable Islamic Nationwide Awakening Celebration (PKB), each of which had been beforehand staunch PKS rivals. Even debate over the size of the 2024 election marketing campaign noticed events arguing about whether or not a shorter interval was extra more likely to cut back polarisation than an extended one.

Two questions come up from these developments. Is polarisation as critical an issue as many contend, notably following the 2019 elections? And is the usage of counter-polarisation justifications for political realignments credible or only a cowl for different motivations?  We are going to argue {that a} latest survey reveals a decline within the excessive ranges of polarisation of the 2014-2019 interval and that a lot of the counter-polarisation development is pushed by events’ makes an attempt to maximise their alternatives within the run-up to the 2024 elections.

How Polarised is Indonesia?

This text attracts from two information units, each from Lembaga Survei Indonesia (LSI). The primary is the “Nationwide Survey on Polarization” performed in April 2021, which concerned 1620 respondents throughout all provinces of Indonesia.  The margin of error was +/-2.5 at a confidence stage of 95%.  The second is “Polarization amongst Indonesian Muslim Elites”, an evaluation of social media content material between 2016 to 2021.  Greater than 2000 excerpts and quotes from a variety of Muslim organisations and leaders had been analysed to discern whether or not the postings represented conservative, progressive or impartial viewpoints on controversial present points.

The survey discovered that 11% of respondents felt Indonesia was extremely polarised and 27% thought it was fairly polarised, in comparison with 33% who believed there was solely slight polarisation and 16% who noticed no polarisation. This implies that for a majority of the general public, polarisation was not a major nationwide drawback. Those that thought that polarisation was of concern belonged primarily to the elite in city areas: professionals, and people with increased ranges of training and earnings. Thus whereas over 56% of these with tertiary training thought that polarisation was of concern, lower than 20% of these with solely elementary training believed it was an issue. This means that current polarisation is extra an elite than a grassroots concern.

As well as, 46% of respondents who use the Web (64% of the whole variety of voters) additionally tended to see the nation as extremely or fairly polarised, in comparison with solely 24% of respondents who haven’t any Web entry. Thus, though typically the respondents really feel that Indonesia will not be polarised, publicity to the Web, comparable to social media or information websites, will increase this perceived sense of division.

A recurring theme of the “lowering polarisation” proposals is that there’s a deep cleavage between these holding pluralist views and people with Islamist views. Pluralism on this case refers to those that favour a polity primarily based on inclusivity, in step with the precept of spiritual neutrality set out within the state ideology of Pancasila. Pluralists resist particular privileges being accorded to the nation’s massive Muslim majority and likewise object to political mobilisation primarily based on what they see as “transnational” Islam, or an expression of Islam perceived as impressed by actions or traits from the Center East.  Islamists are those that search a political and social system by which Islamic regulation and rules function prominently. They consider that almost all standing of Muslims mixed with Islam’s vital position in Indonesia’s historical past ought to be formally mirrored within the construction and legal guidelines of the state.

The LSI survey, nonetheless, confirmed that the cleavage between pluralist and Islamist teams is much less deep than broadly supposed. Certainly, the outcomes counsel that prime public antipathy is especially directed to particular non secular minority teams slightly than main ideological blocs.  The survey used the “feeling thermometer” technique for measuring polarisation.  Respondents had been proven a listing of organisations and events and requested to rank these in keeping with how warmly or coolly they regarded them, with 100 being scorching and nil chilly.  (see Chart One)

Chart One: Feeling Thermometer for individuals and teams

Of the quite a few Islamist organisations included within the checklist, maybe probably the most vital for measuring polarisation is PKS.  This largest of Islamist events that has garnered roughly 7-8% of the nationwide vote within the 4 normal elections since 2004 and is usually singled out by pluralists for example of “transnational Islam” as a result of its historic hyperlinks to Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood. PKS was a key Prabowo supporter within the 2014 and 2019 elections, spear-heading damaging social media and mosque-based assaults on Jokowi’s non secular credibility.

Regardless of its popularity, PKS obtained an unexpectedly heat 56 “levels” on the thermometer, putting it above the median. By the use of comparability, the teams which had been most warmly regarded had been, not surprisingly, Indonesia’s two largest mainstream organisations, Nahdlatul Ulama (74) and Muhammadiyah (64).  PKS was extra warmly regarded than varied non-Muslim teams, comparable to Christians (50), Hindus (46), Buddhists (43), all of whom may additionally have been anticipated to have cooler responses judging by earlier thermometer surveys.

So, if PKS drew mildly heat “emotions”, which teams evinced the best responses?  The 5 lowest-ranked teams had been: native religion sects (38 levels), often a reference to heterodox Muslims teams (generally referred to Kepercayaan or Kebatinan); the banned Islamist motion Hizbut Tahrir Indonesia (33); the Muslim minority sects Ahmadiyah and the Shia (each 32); and, on the very backside, the progressive Liberal Islamic Community (JIL) (30), which has been inactive for a few years.

Along with the thermometer questions, respondents had been requested how they felt about having neighbours (Chart Two), sons- or daughters-in-law (Chart Three), or native leaders (Chart 4) from the identical checklist of teams. This can be a extra particular measure of “affective polarisation’ that gauges the power of optimistic or detrimental feelings. As soon as once more, PKS drew much less hostile responses than pluralist discourses may counsel. Sixty-nine p.c of respondents didn’t thoughts having PKS members as neighbours and solely 9% objected; 51% might settle for them as native leaders and 14% had been opposed. 47% of respondents wouldn’t object to PKS in-laws, although 26% had been resistant. Against this, greater than 30% of respondents had been against Ahmadi, Shia or JIL members residing close to them, and HTI and the banned Islamist vigilante Islamic Defenders Entrance (FPI) attracted objections from 28% and 24% respectively. Forty-seven p.c of respondents wouldn’t vote for candidates from native sects; 45% felt the identical about Ahmadi candidates, 44% for Shia and 43% for JIL. Objections to having these similar teams marrying into respondents’ households had been particularly excessive: 55% for Shia, 54% for Ahmadis, 53% for JIL, 49% for HTI and 40% for FPI.

Chart Two: Feeling Objection for being neighbours with…

Additionally notable was the truth that 81% had no objection to supporters of a rival presidential candidate or get together for whom they voted residing of their neighbourhood, which factors to tolerance of political variations in distinction to sturdy dislike for non secular outliers.

Chart Three: Feeling objection to marrying your little one to…

Chart 4: Feeling objection to voting for a neighborhood chief who’s…

These outcomes reveal that the strongest emotions of dislike are directed not in direction of rival mainstream teams however slightly at these on or close to the margins who’re seen as religiously “deviant” or “excessively” Islamist or liberal. Intolerance of Muslim teams that deviate from Sunni orthodoxy, as outlined by the Ministry of Spiritual Affairs, the state-sanctioned Nationwide Ulama Council (MUI) or pre-eminent Islamic organisations, comparable to NU and Muhammadiyah, has been rising because the Yudhoyono presidency within the late 2000s.  Native sects are frowned upon for his or her heterodoxy, notably in mixing Islamic and non-Islamic practices.  Ahmadis and Shia, whereas concerning themselves as Muslim, albeit not a part of the Sunni majority, are seen by many conservative Sunnis as theologically problematic and have confronted repeated calls for his or her banning.  HTI is disliked as a result of it espouses the creation of a transnational Islamic authorities underneath the management of a caliph, which is seen as subverting Indonesia’s foundational rules.  FPI has a public popularity of violence and contempt for regulation and order. Final of all, JIL, although lengthy moribund, continues to be seen as emblematic of disruptively progressive concepts that undermine established Islamic norms and practices.  In impact, by objecting to teams comparable to these, respondents are marking the boundaries of what they regard as acceptable mainstream behaviour.  One may name this a centrist orthodoxy which seeks to exclude concepts and practices that don’t conform to an more and more inflexible set of middle-ground norms.

The extent to which PKS is broadly accepted as a mainstream get together and its Islamism as a part of the tapestry of Indonesian Islam slightly than an ideological or non secular “different” can also be mirrored in respondents’ solutions to a query asking them to put themselves alongside a continuum of proximity to PDIP at one finish or PKS on the different. Whereas, as anticipated, emotions of closeness to PDIP are a lot increased than these in direction of PKS (18% vs 5%), nonetheless, 38% of those that answered the query positioned themselves in the course of the continuum.

Whereas the survey gives a snapshot of normal group attitudes, social media content material evaluation affords insights into elite opinion as a result of a lot of the materials studied on this course of comes from official web sites of Islamic organisations or instantly from particular person Muslim leaders.  One conclusion from this materials bears out the findings of the “Nationwide Survey on Polarization” survey discovering famous earlier, that elites are extra polarised than the remainder of society. For instance, we will virtually instantly evaluate the survey outcomes and the content material evaluation on the difficulty of the banning of FPI. With the previous, 63% of survey respondents who had been conscious of the ban supported it and solely 29% had been opposed, however in social media, 50% of postings opposed the ban and solely 34% had been in favour. So, opinions had been roughly reversed, with virtually two-thirds of the overall populace favouring the ban however solely one-third of elite opinion supporting it.

Elite disapproval on deviancy points additionally seems a lot stronger than the general public’s disapproval. 62% of commentary in social media was hostile to native beliefs, 57% was crucial of Ahmadiyah and 39% crucial of Shia beliefs.

One purpose for elite susceptibility to polarisation is that they’re instantly concerned in competitors for political and financial sources, which requires them to mobilise their assist bases.  Exploiting non secular identification points is usually an efficient technique of producing emotion and dedication to their trigger.  Against this, peculiar voters aren’t often direct beneficiaries of contestation for political energy and rewards.

The info offered above reveals that polarisation, notably on non secular points, stays vital, although not as critical as many politicians and observers have contended. If we place the 2021 survey outcomes beside information from different credible surveys over the previous decade, it’s doable to conclude that the excessive level of polarisation occurred throughout and between the 2014 and 2019 elections, however has since declined.

Whereas it’s welcome that politicians have expressed concern about non secular cleavages and proven a willingness to ease divisions within the identify of nationwide cohesion and defending democracy, there are grounds for doubting that counter-polarisation is the true purpose for a lot of latest political manoeuvres. Prabowo readily used divisive appeals as a serious a part of his presidential marketing campaign technique in 2014 and 2019, and his primary purpose for now becoming a member of his former opponents is that he needs to rebrand himself as a unifying and statesman-like public determine for the 2024 election. The efforts to increase Widodo’s presidential time period are pushed by the will of elements of the ruling coalition to stay in energy so long as doable. Any extension past 2024 could be an extra blow to the standard of Indonesia’s democracy. Lastly, these events that now discover advantage in collaboration or coalition with former foes are motivated by a need to maximise their negotiating positions within the run as much as the following parliamentary and presidential elections. Placing collectively different tickets for the presidency reduces their threat of changing into peripheral gamers who’ve to just accept what the most important events dictate, slightly than with the ability to shield their very own pursuits.

The salience of polarisation could enhance once more within the led as much as the 2024 elections. However we’d like additionally to be conscious of the truth that a sure diploma of polarisation is regular in a democracy, a mirrored image of ideological distinction and engagement with the political course of. As Robert B Talisse reminded us just lately, “The response to polarisation can not contain requires unanimity or abandoning partisan rivalries. A democracy with out political divides is not any democracy in any respect.”



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