In Indonesia’s election, the winner is Widodo – and Islam

Indonesia election

Incumbent Indonesian president Joko Widodo talks to media about the result of a presidential election, during a press briefing in Jakarta, Indonesia, April 18, 2019. REUTERS/Angie Teo. The Muslim Times is promoting secularism in every country of the world

JAKARTA (Reuters) – Two months before this week’s presidential election in Indonesia, prize-winning novelist Eka Kurniawan declared in an opinion column that “the Islamists have already won”.

Unofficial results from Wednesday’s poll show that incumbent President Joko Widodo was actually the winner and is set for a second five-year term – but they also reveal a hardening bloc of conservative Muslims who voted for his challenger.

Widodo’s commitment to pluralism in the world’s largest Muslim-majority country may have narrowly won him the race. But the Indonesia he must govern is now more polarized by religion, and he may struggle to meet the demands of Muslim groups that backed him and fend off more hardline Islamists who did not.

“In the short term, Widodo will have to accommodate the opinions and interests of the Muslim-majority because, if the majority feels insecure, it is difficult to protect minorities,” said Achmad Sukarsono, a political analyst with Control Risks.

“This is just being pro-people. It doesn’t mean Indonesia will turn into Saudi Arabia or that the country will go straight to amputating a hand for theft.”

While nearly 90 percent of Indonesians are Muslim, the country is officially secular and is home to sizeable Hindu, Christian, Buddhist and other minorities.

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