Jakarta’s Ritz Carlton hotel this weekend was a sea of brightly coloured Islamic headscarves and the crisp white uniforms of the Islam-based Prosperous Justice Party (PKS), the third biggest party in President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s cabinet. PKS held their national congress at the luxury hotel

, the site of a deadly July 2009 bomb attack perpetrated by Islamist militants,

and the topic on everyone’s lips was how to broaden the party’s appeal and shake off their image as hardliners.

CORRECTION: This post originally identified this Ritz Carlton as the site of the 2009 bombing, which occured at a different Ritz Carlton location.

pks 1It’s a reputation the party earned by pushing conservative policies such as Indonesia’s anti-pornography law and supporting the introduction of stoning for adulterers in semi-autonomous region of Aceh, where sharia law is practiced. (Photo: Sharia police check women caught wearing tight pants in Aceh province May 26, 2010/Junaidi Hanafiah)

But a tough moral line has not proved a great vote winner in majority Muslim Indonesia, where most people practice a very moderate form of Islam that incorporates pre-Islamic traditional beliefs. PKS increased its vote only slightly in the 2009 election and all other Islam-based parties actually lost votes.