This paper discusses the development of political parties in Indonesia from the 1950s (post-independence) to the general elections of the Reform era (1999 and 2004) following the end of Suharto's New Order regime. Indonesians are divided along religious and cultural lines into different aliran (streams) and political parties in some respects have followed these “streams”, representing santri (pious Muslims), abangan (nominal Muslims with beliefs in mysticism) and priyayi (those with roots in the aristocracy and beliefs in mysticism). They can further be categorised into two major groups, those that have links to, or espouse ideologies of, Islam and Nationalists.
This paper finds, firstly, that this pattern continued from the 1950s to 1999, but that by 2004, peoples' preferences in local, regional, and national elections for head of government were no longer generally characterised by “streams”. Second, it finds that a pattern of nationalist-Islamic or abangan-santri coalitions has apparently become an alternative solution for Indonesian integration and democracy. And, third, it shows that it is difficult for Islamic-based parties to gain popular support without coalitions with other parties with secular-nationalist bases of support even though demographically, the majority of Indonesian people are Muslim.
CRISE Working Paper No. 61, 16 pp.