The World’s Largest Muslim-Majority Country Goes to the Polls

February 15, 2024

Paul Marshall, RFI’s South and Southeast Asia Director, wrote an article published in Providence yesterday analyzing developments in Indonesia’s recent election. Marshall argues that too little attention is being paid to it, despite Indonesia being “the world’s fourth largest country, the third largest democracy, and the seventh largest economy in purchasing power parity, not to mention by far the world’s largest Muslim-majority country.” He explains how the current President, Joko Widodo or “Jokowi,” is likely supporting the leading candidate, Prabowo Subianto, in exchange for the continuation of his policies and political advancement for his family. He also explains the troubling implications this endorsement might have for growing radicalism and religious repression in the country.

This is troubling for many reasons. Apart from his authoritarian past, in the last Presidential election Prabowo also sought support from Indonesia’s Islamists, including appearing in a rally with the now-banned Islamic Defenders Front. Radical forms of Islam are a minority in this largely tolerant country, which is marked by Islam moderasi, but their influence has been growing. 

While Jokowi never catered to radical groups, and banned several of them, there has been a marked increase in religious freedom violations and blasphemy convictions during his Presidency. And, while Prabowo is no Islamist, he has shown a willingness to give them concessions in order to secure their votes.

There is a danger that Indonesia may revert to more authoritarian and dynastic politics against this background of increasing radicalism.

Read the full article: “The World’s Largest Muslim-Majority Country Goes to the Polls.”