Indonesia Slouches Towards Islamism

The editors of the Wall Street Journal note that the Special Capital Region of Jakarta in Indonesia, often a bellwether for Indonesian politics more generally, is on the cusp of electing an Islamist governor:

The speed at which the Islamists were able to transform this governor’s race is a reminder that Indonesia’s democracy remains young and volatile. The consolation is that this is less about radical change in the beliefs of Indonesian voters than a reflection of the bitter battle between two groups of secular politicians—Mr. Widodo’s reformers and more traditional elites. Radical groups were able to exploit this clash for their own purposes.

Mr. Baswedan was previously known as a moderate Muslim and served as Mr. Widodo’s education minister until he was replaced in a July 2016 reshuffle. His removal was largely driven by Mr. Widodo’s need to consolidate Muslim support in advance of the 2019 elections. This helps explain why Mr. Baswedan was replaced by a member of the Muhammadiyah, the country’s second-largest Muslim organization.

Mr. Baswedan was then recruited by the secular Gerindra Party, run by the son-in-law of the Indonesian dictator Suharto. Only after the Islamists began to attack Governor Purnama did Mr. Baswedan begin to advertise himself as a religious conservative. In January he gave a speech to the hardline Islamic Defenders Front and claimed the Quran prohibits voting for non-Muslims.

We’ve seen this movie before. It’s playing out right now in Turkey which has evolved from secular military rule to secular democratic government and then to Islamist authoritarian over the period of the last 35 years.

If Indonesia becomes Islamist liberal democracies with Muslim majorities will have become pretty darned rare.

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