Social Science Research Council Research AMP Mediawell

Islamic Political Parties and Election Campaigns in Indonesia

Menchik, Jeremy, ; Fox, Colm
Party Politics

Islamist political parties are a structural feature of politics across the Muslim world, raising persisting questions for scholars of democracy. Under what conditions will Islamists moderate to support democracy and pluralism? Under what conditions will they adopt more exclusive behavior? Taking a fresh approach, we focus on electoral competition and the conditions under which Islamic party candidates campaign using either inclusive nationalist appeals or exclusively Islamic appeals. Using a unique data source, we coded the appeals contained on the campaign posters of 572 Islamic party candidates in Indonesia. We found that demographics, urban–rural differences, and the level of government office (i.e., national or regional) affected the inclusive or exclusive nature of campaigns. We also highlight differences in appeals made by candidates from Muslim democratic and Islamist parties. The study illustrates the effectiveness of posters as a data source and presents a new approach to understanding the behavior of Islamic parties.