Secular parties favoured by Indonesian Muslims - poll

  • World
  • Thursday, 25 Sep 2008

MYT 9:17:17 PM

JAKARTA (Reuters) - A majority of Indonesian Muslims continue to favour secular parties ahead of elections next year, despite a strong showing in some local elections by Islamic parties, a survey by a leading pollster showed on Thursday.

People attend Friday prayer at the grand Istiqlal Mosque in Jakarta in this September 5, 2008 file photo. (REUTERS/Supri)

Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim country, will hold legislative elections in April 2009, followed by a presidential vote in July.

The survey by the Indonesian Survey Institute (LSI), a private pollster, showed that 60 percent of voters would support secular nationalist parties and 16.6 percent Islamic parties if elections were held today. About 24 percent were undecided.

The nationwide survey of 1,239 Muslim voters was conducted between September 8-20 with a margin of error of 3 percent.

"Generally Muslim voters tend to prioritise needs to address social and economic problems rather than focusing on religious interests," said Kuskrido Ambardi, a researcher at the pollster.

The survey showed 76 percent of voters want the government to focus on addressing people's welfare, followed by 15 percent on governance, 8 percent on law enforcement and only 0.8 percent on morality and religion.

Islamic parties have never achieved a majority in Indonesian elections. They won 43 percent of the vote in a 1955 poll, and got 38 percent in the 1999 and 2004 elections. However, a small but increasingly influential Islamist party, the Prosperous and Justice Party (PKS), has had a strong performance in some local elections in the past year, largely thanks to its focus on clean government.

It has been wooing ordinary Indonesians frustrated by widespread graft and a lack of jobs, but has alarmed some moderates who fear Indonesia could tilt towards a wider use of sharia law and become less tolerant.

Earlier this year, the PKS candidate won the election for governor of West Java, the biggest province by population, and for North Sumatra. It came a close second in last year's race for governor of Jakarta, with 42.5 percent of the vote.

Ambardi said PKS appeared to be gaining support at the expense of votes for other Islamic parties rather than nationalist secular parties.

The latest LSI poll did not release separate figures for the main political parties, although in a previous poll, PKS support was seen at 6 percent in June, while the secular PDI-P and Golkar parties polled 16.5 percent and 20 percent respectively.

Indonesia's Muslims, some 85 percent of the population, mostly follow a moderate form of Islam, but hardline groups have had an increasingly high profile in recent years.

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