Islamic parties join forces to back Joko Widodo for Indonesian presidency

PUBLISHED : Monday, 12 May, 2014, 10:14pm
UPDATED : Monday, 12 May, 2014, 10:14pm

Indonesian presidential front runner Joko 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 Widodo's Indonesian Democratic-Party of Struggle (PDI-P) and his bid for president on July 9.

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

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 per cent of the vote or 20 per cent of parliamentary seats can contest the presidential poll. Widodo's PDI-P won the most votes but was short of the required 25 per cent. It reached the mark with support from NasDem alone. PKB's support will add weight to his candidacy.

Investors also hope the addition of more parties to Widodo's coalition will give him the political clout in parliament to pass major reforms if elected.

PKB's policy outlook was in any case already broadly aligned with PDI-P.

"PKB doesn't believe in mixing religion with politics," Helmy Faishal, a senior PKB official said. "The only concern we have about religion is how to ensure religious freedom for everybody, including minorities."

Analysts say PKB, which backs agrarian reform, is unlikely to change the nationalistic agenda of Widodo and PDI-P.

Widodo, who has so far been largely silent on policy details, has indicated he would phase out agricultural imports with the aim of achieving self-sufficiency.

Recent media reports indicate his rivals Prabowo Subianto, a former general, and tycoon Aburizal Bakrie may team up to form one ticket, though neither has yet conceded his presidential ambition.

Candidate pairs need to be registered with the election body by Sunday. If no candidate wins a simple majority in the July race, there will be a second round in September. The new president will take office in October.