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       "Dynamics of Political Parties and Party System in Post-Reformasi Indonesia:
                      Outlook, Challenges, and Future Trajectory"
                     Marina Mandarin Hotel, Singapore, 14-15 July 2010

    PKS in Post-Reformasi Indonesia: Outlook, Challenges, and Trajectory

                                            Sunny Tanuwidjaja

Aside from Partai Demokrat‟s triumph in the 2009 general election, PKS‟ political
performance in the post-Soeharto elections has been the most exceptional political success
story in Indonesia and has drawn much of the attention. It is the combination of the following
three reasons that makes PKS not only an interesting but also important research object for
those who are concern with democratic consolidation in Indonesia. First is its phenomenal
success in transforming itself from a marginal into a major political party within a decade.
Second is its potential to strengthen democratization by providing a model of successful party
organization despite being regarded as an extreme right political party. Third is its continuing
and still unsuccessful attempt to brand itself no longer as an exclusive Islamist party but as an
open, pluralist, and inclusive party with multi-dimensional party‟s agenda (Pepinsky et. al
2010, unpublished manuscript).

In the three post-Soeharto elections, PKS has been able to transform itself from a minor party
into a major one which able to influence policy making. Its success from in the 2004 election
is considered a political miracle1. PKS was able to increase its vote from 1.36% in 1999 to
7.34% in 2004. From 2004 to 2009 PKS electoral performance has obtained mix review.
With reference to its own target, i.e. a double digit vote, PKS performance was a
disappointment, gaining only 7.88% (Permata 2009). Many expected that PKS would
perform better than in 2004, which is also not the case. However, looking from a broader
context, PKS 2009 electoral performance can also be considered as a success. It is the only
relevant political party that contested in the 2004 which was able to stand its ground against
the political assault of SBY‟s Partai Demokrat (PD) in the 2009 election. PDIP, Golkar, PPP,
PKB, and PAN in a lesser sense, all failed to equal their own 2004 performance in 2009.
Naturally, PKS political weight in the parliament, the number of cabinet seats seized by PKS
and its influence in regional politics also increase significantly2.

Organization wise, PKS provides an example on how party can be electorally successful by
building a solid and discipline organization (Tomsa 2010, Baswedan 2004). This
organizational strength is marked more by stability and continuity than change. Since its
inception as Partai Keadilan (PK), PKS continues to be a party which is relatively more

  Other notable electoral successes are the Democratic party’s success in 2004 and 2009; and somewhat less
discussed Gerindra and Hanura in 2009
  PKS seat in the parliament increases from 7 in 1999-2004, 45 in 2004-2009, and 56 in 2009-2014. Nur
Mahmudi was the only PKS member in Gus Dur’s cabinet. Under SBY’s first term PKS gained three cabinet
seats: Adhyaksa Dault (Minister of Youth and Sport), Anton Aprianto (Minister of Agriculture), and Yusuf Asyari
(Minister of Housing). Under SBY’s second term PKS received four cabinet seats: Tifatul Sembiring
(Communication and Information Technology Minister), Agriculture Minister Suswono, Social Affairs Minister
Salim Segaf Al Jufri and Research and Technology Minister Suharna Surapranata.

        "Dynamics of Political Parties and Party System in Post-Reformasi Indonesia:
                       Outlook, Challenges, and Future Trajectory"
                      Marina Mandarin Hotel, Singapore, 14-15 July 2010

effective compares to other parties in mobilizing its supporters for financing, participation in
party‟s social activities, as well as for electoral purposes. Its leadership, key party members,
as well as supporters tends to be more educated compares to other parties due to its root in
major campuses in Indonesia and its pro active attempt to send its cadres to study abroad
(Marthinus 2010). Campuses remain to be the source of PKS cadres for party‟s regeneration
and recruitment purposes. PKS continues to rely less on certain charismatic figure compares
to most parties in Indonesia in achieving electoral success. PKS has also been effective in
managing internal conflict. Unlike other parties which have experience publicly open and
damaging internal conflicts (Golkar, PKB, PPP and to a certain extent PDIP and PAN),
internal rift within PKS seems to be effectively contained and isolated from public exposure.
Last but not least is PKS clean and anti-corruption image.

In its latest move, PKS reaffirmed its commitment to openness and pluralism during its
second National Congress in June 2010 by the declaring itself as the “Party for all”. This is
part of a continuing attempt by PKS to position itself more as a moderate or centrist political
party in order to achieve its goal to finish in the top three in 2014 election. Unlike what has
been perceived by many3, there is no significant change in terms of the party‟s strategy. One
should note that Hilmi Aminuddin remains the head of PKS Consultative Body (Majelis
Syuro) and Anis Matta continues to retain the secretary general position. Both Hilmi and Anis
are known for their pragmatic political approach. PKS understands that in order to improve
its electoral performance it has to widen its support base by courting the bulk of Indonesian
voters who are moderate or centrist. There is however no fundamental difference between
PKS strategy in the 2004 and 2009 elections. One can even say that PKS 2009 strategy is
based on its 2004 electoral success. PKS positioned itself as a party that is clean, its rhetoric
concerns more with good governance, and it attempted to create a perception that it is no
longer a rightists or conservative political party. Its success in surviving the onslaught of PD
can be attributed to this strategy. Observers point out that PKS seeds of moderation and
pragmatism goes back even further when its members agree to establish a political party in
1998 (Eriadi 2010) and its campaign rhetorics have not changed much since the 1999 election
(Fealy 2008) under the banner of PK, which emphasize on corruption eradication, good
governance, and economic development instead of specific mentioning about religious
agenda, syariah, and Islamic state. Thus, today‟s attempt to rebrand itself is more of a
continuation of PKS‟ strategy instead of something new4.

It is within these contexts this paper asks the following questions: What are the challenges
that emerge as PKS attempts to further expand its support base? How significant are the
influence of these challenges and what is the prospect of PKS electorally considering these

 See for example Nurrohman 2010, and Kristiadi 2010
 Note that despite the necessity to become more centrist, PKS has to maintain its Islamic identity particularly
to maintain its loyal supporters. PKS’ president stated that nationalism is part of Islam, which seems to indicate
that as a party PKS is still more of an Islamic party that a nationalist one and an indication that PKS still wants
to maintain its Islamic identity.

       "Dynamics of Political Parties and Party System in Post-Reformasi Indonesia:
                      Outlook, Challenges, and Future Trajectory"
                     Marina Mandarin Hotel, Singapore, 14-15 July 2010

PKS’ Challenges

PKS organizational strength is a major advantage over other parties and maintaining it will be
a key factor for PKS to achieve its goal in 2014 election. However, it is precisely because of
its electoral ambition that puts PKS organizational advantage at risk; particularly its clean
image, its stable support base, and its internal solidity.

As a major party which attempts to expand its support base, PKS has to adapt. In order to
reach its target in 2014, PKS needs to gain adequate financial resources. Members‟ financial
contribution is far from adequate to fulfill PKS‟ financial needs. This condition forced PKS
to improvise in its fund raising method which now range from: contribution from party
members who hold key positions in the government and parliament, receiving funds from
candidates running in local elections, accepting financial contribution from non-cadre
individuals who are running as legislative candidates under PKS banner, to negotiating with
conglomerates for funding in exchange for political “protection” and “backing”5. Financial
pressure coupled with access to power have created image problem for PKS. Its clean image
as a party has been taken over by PD right before the 2009 election6. This will become an
even bigger challenge in the near future. Now, it is no longer difficult to mention PKS
politicians being implicated in corruption cases7. Although none were convicted, the news
about these cases has negatively affect PKS image and credibility. More so, having members
implicated in corruption cases is much more detrimental for PKS than other parties because
expectation, unlike for other parties, runs high for PKS being clean.

Internally, PKS conflict becomes more complicated. There are two major camps called the
prosperous faction with its pragmatist approach and the justice faction with its conservative
approach. Mahfud Siddiq downplayed the internal friction within PKS implying that the
conflict between the realist-pragmatist (prosperous) faction and the idealist (justice) faction
has been resolved8. To some extent this is true because evidences point out that the realist-
pragmatist (prosperous) camp has won out. Today, prosperous faction has succeeded in
gaining the majority of support in the party as shown by the grip of Hilmi and Anis.
However, there is an emerging tension within this faction as indicated by the competition
between Hilmi and Hidayat Nur Wahid in the party congress. Although both camps within
the prosperous faction agree the needs to be electorally successful, to expand PKS support
base beyond the Muslim conservatives, and thus the need for a more pragmatic approach, the
Hidayat camp believes that pragmatism promoted by Hilmi‟s camp has gone too far, for
example by seeking support from businessmen with legal problems. The Hidayat camp sees
PKS not only as a party but also part of a socio-religious movement, and thus still has and

  This model is not uncommon, see Kompas, 1 June, 2010, “Parpol Jadi Pelindung Orang Bermasalah”.
  Lembaga Survei Indonesia Publication, January 2009, “Rasionalitas Pemilih: Kontestasi Partai Menjelang
Pemilu 2009”.
  Some names that are identified with PKS such as Fahri Hamzah, Tamsil Linrung, Rama Pratama, Nur
Mahmudi, the wife of Adang Daradjatun, and Misbakhun have been allegedly linked to corruption cases.
8                         st
  The Jakarta Post June 21 2010, “PKS not divided by “open party” policy: Chairman”

       "Dynamics of Political Parties and Party System in Post-Reformasi Indonesia:
                      Outlook, Challenges, and Future Trajectory"
                     Marina Mandarin Hotel, Singapore, 14-15 July 2010

needs moral responsibility, credibility and authority. This dynamic has created serious
tensions within PKS.

The good news is, institutionally PKS seems to have become an expert in limiting the impact
of internal rift, isolating its exposure, and finding ways to maintain its party solidity. Another
reason to be optimistic is the fact that the camps within the Prosperous faction understand
that reconciliation is the best bet for them all. The impact of financial pressure can be quite
detrimental towards PKS‟ image, but when public expectation towards PKS is adjusted; its
impact in the future will become less and less significant.

Whether PKS strategy is going to be successful in 2014 depends not only on how PKS can
effectively deal with its internal challenges but also depends on how it can respond to
external challenges. PKS entry to the centrist or moderate voters market will be challenging
because there are already three established parties within that spectrum i.e. the current three
biggest parties: PD, Golkar, and PDI-P. In addition, medium size parties such as PAN, PKB,
Gerindra, and Hanura are also competing for these voters. In other words, the centrist
electoral space is already crowded with parties with moderate and centrist credentials. If the
three biggest parties are able to establish strong performance in the next four years, PKS will
face difficulty competing with them because when voters are satisfied, they will prefer status
quo and continuity then change. Unless PKS is able to bring something new, better and more
credible, it will be a difficult competition for PKS. Its tense relationship with NU and
Muhammadiyah will be another key challenge since both mass organizations have members
which can be potential voters for PKS.

PKS’ Electoral Prospect

There are several reasons for PKS to be optimistic about its electoral prospect. First, further
analysis of PKS electoral performance in 2009 shows that PKS main source of additional
votes does not come from Islamic Parties alone. Instead, PKS tends to gain additional votes
in 2009 from districts where PD, Golkar, and PDI-P experienced decline9. This shows how
PKS can still attract voters from the centrist political parties. While PKS support base
remains Java centric, PKS was also successful in expanding its support beyond the urban
area10. In addition, while experiencing decline in West Java and Banten, PKS was able to
make electoral gains in Central and East Java11. All these shows that as a political party PKS
is still a possible option for voters whether they are the centrist party voters, rural voters, as
well as for areas where traditional Muslims are the predominant voters.

Second, the concern on how PKS‟ move to the center has brought and will bring both
positive and negative impact (Fealy 2008) remains difficult to confirm. Instead, compares to

  This calculation has been done by taking into account the size of each party.
   In 2004, 70 percent of PKS voters are from the urban area. In 2009, the share of urban voters among PKS’
voters decreased to 60 percent.
   In 2004, 60 percent of PKS voters are from Java. This number stays the same in the 2009 election due to the
shift of PKS support in West Java and Jakarta to Central and East Java.

       "Dynamics of Political Parties and Party System in Post-Reformasi Indonesia:
                      Outlook, Challenges, and Future Trajectory"
                     Marina Mandarin Hotel, Singapore, 14-15 July 2010

other big political parties, i.e. PD, Golkar, and PDI-P, PKS experience the least amount of
variation in vote changes within districts. PD‟s and Golkar‟s variation is ten time the
variation of PKS, while PDI-P‟s is almost most five times of PKS. This indicates that PKS
was relatively better in maintaining its voters while failing to reach out to new ones. If there
is voter circulation pattern as mentioned by Fealy, the size does not seem to be as significant
as expected. This does not mean that PKS should change its strategy and becomes even more
centrist or moderate. Instead, its failure to attract new voters can be attributed more to its
failure to convince voters about their new party identity and to the PD factors. This evidence
also shows the uniqueness as a party formed in the post-New Order era. As a party that
emerged from social movement, as in the case of PAN and PKB, PKS seems to be the only
one that can sustain its rootedness. As the linked between PAN and the masses of
Muhammadiyah, and PKB and the masses of NU weakened, PKS continues to be linked
closely to its tarbiyah movement.

Third, there is a declining tendency of voters‟ identification towards political parties. As
shown by LSI survey in November 2008, party identification is at its lowest at 15 percentage
level12. This opens the possibility for voters to switch from one party to another. Fourth is
despite a trend towards the personalization of politics in Indonesia, and despite the fact that
SBY can still be a political asset for PD in 2014, it is still unclear and somewhat unlikely that
another public figure as charismatic and popular as SBY will emerge in 2014. Considering
PKS has an organizational advantage, this situation is going to be beneficial for PKS. This
however does not reduce the urgency of PKS to find nationally popular figures within its
party (Alfian 2010) considering the tendency of personalization of politics in Indonesia
(Mujani and Liddle 2007). Related to this is PKS ability to mobilize using its party
organization will be even more advantageous for PKS because it is likely that election turnout
will decline further in 201413. The plan to increase parliamentary threshold from 2.5 percent
will reduce the number of parties competing in the upcoming election. While voters from
small centrist parties will be divided among seven parties, PKS will only have to compete
with PPP for the voters from minor Islamist parties, in which PKS has a clear advantage
(Mietzner 2009).


Despite several hurdles that PKS has to overcome, the electoral prospect of PKS looks
promising. Some useful reference to or comparison between PKS and AKP in Turkey can be
made along with comparison with other parties in Western European countries which
transform themselves into centrist leaning parties. Some assessment should be made with
regards to the impact of PKS shift on the overall party system in Indonesia with reference to
the impact of the dominance of catch-all parties on party system.

   Lembaga Survei Indonesia Publication, November 2008, “Kecenderungan Swing Voter Menjelang Pemilu
   Turnout in 1999 is 91 percent, in 2004 it is 84 percent, and in 2009 it is 70%

      "Dynamics of Political Parties and Party System in Post-Reformasi Indonesia:
                     Outlook, Challenges, and Future Trajectory"
                    Marina Mandarin Hotel, Singapore, 14-15 July 2010


Alfian, A. „Daya Kristis dan Survivalitas PKS‟ [Critical and PKS‟ Survival Capacity],
Kompas, 16 June.

Baswedan , Anies R. (2004) „Political Islam in Indonesia: Present and Future
Trajectory‟,Asian Survey 44, no. 5: 684–89.

Bubalo, A., Fealy, G., and Mason, W. (2008) „Zealous Democrats: Islamism and Democracy
in Egypt, Indonesia, and Turkey‟, Sidney: Lowy Institute for International Policy.

Eriadi, M.H. (2010) „Ketika Bandul PKS Makin ke Tengah‟ [When PKS Moves to the
Centre], Republika, 21 June.

Kristiadi, J. (2010) „Fenomena Partai Keadilan Sejahtera„ [The Phenomena of Prosperous and
Justice Party, Kompas, June 29.

Marthinus, P. (2010) „PKS‟ Transnational, Pragmatic Politics‟, The Jakarta Post, 28 June.

Mietzner, M. (2009) “Indonesia‟s 2009 Elections: Populism, Dynasties and the Consolidation
of the Party System”, Sidney: Lowy Institute for International Policy.

Nurrohman (2010) „Assessing PKS‟ New Look‟, The Jakarta Post, 22 June.

Pepinsky, Thomas B., Liddle, William R., and Mujani, Saiful (2010) „Indonesia Democracy
and the Transformation of Political Islam‟, paper presented at the 2010 Annual Meeting of
the Association of Asian Studies.

Permata, Ahmad-Norma and Kailani, Najib (2009) „Islam and the 2009 Indonesian Elections,
Political and Cultural Issues: The Case of the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS)‟, Bangkok:

Tomsa, Dirk (2010) „The Indonesian Party System after the 2009 Elections: Towards
Stability?‟, in E. Aspinall and M. Mietzner (eds) Problems of Democratization in Indonesia,
Pasir Panjang, Singapore: ISEAS.


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