In Indonesia, moderate Islamic party returns to political center stage

May 12, 2014
(Jakarta governor and presidential candidate Joko Widodo looks on during PDIP party campaign in Jakarta March 16, 2014. In a sign Indonesians are coming to assume that the hugely popular Jakarta governor Widodo will be their next president, even the outgoing leader is pressing him to be more explicit about his policies before he is in office. Picture take March 16, 2014. REUTERS/Beawiharta)

(Jakarta governor and presidential candidate Joko Widodo looks on during PDIP party campaign in Jakarta March 16, 2014. REUTERS/Beawiharta)

Indonesian presidential frontrunner Joko “Jokowi” Widodo has joined hands with the country’s most popular Islamic party, cementing the surprise resurgence of Muslim parties in this year’s election and possibly renewing their voice in the new government.

The National Awakening Party (PKB) on Saturday became the latest party to back Jokowi’s Indonesian Democratic-Party of Struggle (PDI-P) and his bid for president on July 9.

PKB’s endorsement is particularly important for Jokowi, as it will help him appeal to the Islamic vote in the world’s most populous Muslim nation, where most practice a moderate form of the religion.

“PDI-P and PKB have similar historical traces, ideology and chemistry since the beginning,” Hasto Kristiyanto, PDI-P’s deputy secretary general, told Reuters following the announcement of their coalition, which also includes the National Democrat (NasDem) party.

PKB is allied with the country’s biggest Muslim organization, the moderate Nahdlatul Ulama, and has pledged to keep religion out of policy-making. PKB won the most votes of the five Islamic-based parties in April’s parliamentary elections, which set the stage for the presidential poll.

Only candidates backed by parties or coalitions with at least 25 percent of the vote or 20 percent of parliamentary seats can contest.

Read the full story by Kanupriya Kapoor and Randy Fabi here.

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