Islam Plays Muted Rule in Southeast Asian Election Politics

March 27, 2004

Source: International Herald Tribune

On March 27, 2004 the International Herald Tribune reported, "The current election season is revealing interesting features of the role, or lack of it, of religion in the democratic politics of the predominantly Muslim countries of Southeast Asia...the role of Islam in the politics of Malaysia, whose population is 60 percent Muslim, is much greater than in Indonesia, where 90 percent of the population is Muslim. Indonesia is in the early days of a six-month contest. Legislative elections on April 5 will help determine the lineup for the first round of the presidential election in July and a September runoff between the top two candidates. The most striking aspect of the Indonesian contest is that religion - or indeed ideology of any sort - is largely absent. This is a battle of personalities and interest groups, which offers a bewildering number of possible alliances. Religious organizations matter only to the extent that they can, if they choose, help to deliver votes."