The demise of the Suharto regime in 1998, and the re-emergence of democracy in Indonesia, saw a proliferation of new political parties encompassing a greatly enhanced ideological spectrum. During Indonesia’s first democratic incarnation, and in the early years of the post-authoritarian reformation (Reformasi) period, the prevailing tendency in academic literature was to frame Indonesia’s political landscape in terms of a defined ideological ‘cleavage’ between ‘secular-nationalist’ and ‘Islamic’ parties.
Yet with the consolidation of Indonesia’s new democracy, several prominent scholars have identified a process of ‘dealignment’, or depolarisation, within the republic’s party system. A decade ago, the Indonesian public intellectual Anies Baswedan examined the development of less ideologically rigid, more mutually accommodating political platforms by certain parties from both sides of the secular/Islamic spectrum. Andreas Ufen, a leading proponent of the dealignment thesis, has since argued that an under-institutionalised democratic system, executive-dominated and highly personalised parties, vague electoral platforms, the growth of ‘rainbow coalitions’, political decentralisation, and elite cartelisation have contributed to a weakening of parties’ established ideological positions. However, there is a surprising paucity of literature dedicated to exploring the effects of depolarisation upon specific parties.
This study examines the phenomenon of ideological depolarisation in relation to two of Indonesia’s largest parties: the secular-nationalist Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (Partai Demokrasi Indonesia Perjuangan; PDIP), and the ‘Islamist’ Prosperous Justice Party (Partai Keadilan Sejahtera; PKS). I make use of existing academic literature, party publications and Indonesian news items, as well as extensive primary research, including interviews with party elites and electoral data from the national, provincial and local levels, to explore the impact of ideological depolarisation upon these parties. I endeavour to compare the effects of depolarisation upon the politico-ideological trajectories of PDIP and PKS, and draw conclusions which better explain the variation in their experiences.