Thursday, January 20, 2022

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An Indonesian Political Party Copies Strategy of a Turkish Counterpart

The Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) is making news by visiting other political parties. This may be related to the party's efforts to follow the example of Turkey’s highly successful and dominant political party.

By Harishmawan Heryadi

Keeping in touch is certainly a good thing. The Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) probably had this in mind when it carried out a series of visits to other political parties in recent weeks, including during the fasting month of Ramadan. Now led by Ahmad Syaikhu, the PKS attracted considerable news coverage during these political safaris.

In making these visits, PKS seems to have targeted political parties with various backgrounds. They for example visited their old friend, the party called Gerindra. Of course, they want to make friends with fellow non-governmental parties. They also made it a point to visit the parties that regularly oppose the ruling PDIP is also the party visited by PKS. 

Once again, establishing close ties is certainly a positive thing. Moreover, in Indonesian politics, this activity is considered normal, especially ahead of the General Election. Visiting, especially to explore coalition opportunities, is quite common in this country’s political culture. 

However, in fact, there may be another purpose in the PKS outreach to other parties, considering that there is still plenty of time before the next election. What then, is this purpose?

Establishing Friendship

In recent times, it seems that there has not been much news about political parties in Indonesia. The pandemic that is not over yet still dominates the news in the country. Apart from that, everything related to Ramadan and Eid al-Fitr is also a very popular issue. 

In the midst of the lack of news about political parties, the name PKS has been prominently mentioned in the country’s mass media several times. This is a change of pace from news cycles dominated by COVID-19 and Ramadan.

Thus PKS has attracted considerable attention with its political safaris. While other political parties get some attention through cadres commenting on current issues, PKS has recently made news through the actions of the organization itself. 

For example, PKS has visited fellow non-government parties, namely the Democrats. They also found time to meet fellow Islamic-oriented parties such as PPP and PKB. 

They have already held a reunion with their old friend, the Gerindra Party. Nationalist parties in the government camp such as Golkar were also visited. In fact, its first visit was with the PDIP, which is a traditional rival. 

This kind of visit is probably a matter of course. This is especially so if the purpose of the party visiting other parties is to explore coalition possibilities. This may also be a way of making an early campaign start ahead of all other political parties. This is closely related to the absence of party issues being reported. 

Introducing New Branding

Considering the situation, there may be issues related to the publicity that PKS is trying to generate. Indeed, there have been plenty of handshakes and deals in these visits. At the same time, there may be some kind of effort to strengthen the PKS brand so that it will continue to be remembered by the public. 

Brand strengthening is important for parties such as PKS. As a non-governmental party, it does not have a policy that can bring about free publicity. Apart from making criticisms, they need to find a way to remain caught on the news radar. 

Beyond that, PKS itself has just taken a significant step in changing its identity. The party, which was originally synonymous with a black square logo containing rice flanked by two golden crescent moons, has now changed its symbol. 

At the National Conference (Munas) V, they introduced a new logo in the shape of an orange circle. Inside, there are the same elements, namely rice, which is flanked by two crescent moons, this time colored white.

In line with that, PKS also introduced a variety of new branding elements, namely changes in the party march and the party hymns.

Of course, there is a reason why PKS made such changes. According to their Secretary-General, Aboe Bakar Al Habsyi, the essence of this change is that PKS must appear fresher, closer, and open to all groups.

So, these changes, especially the logo, certainly transformed the face of PKS significantly. People who have long identified PKS with its old logo and other symbols, of course, need to get massive publicity regarding the changes they have made. 

The visits could be one way of introducing the new branding and to simply remind people of the party’s existence. 

The Turkish Model?

If you look at the PKS logo now, what will immediately come to your mind? Some people may be immediately reminded of the origin of the capital football club, which is Persija. Beyond that, there is a large political entity that has a symbol similar to this logo’s color scheme. 

For some, the orange color that PKS has now chosen reminds them of the Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi (AKP) in Turkey. The party led by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is indeed very closely associated with the orange color in its political journey. 

In light of this similarity, PKS may be using AKP as a model for its branding efforts. This may be reflected in more than just a change in the party’s logo or colors.

If you pay attention to its various visits, PKS appears to be trying to be inclusive: it visits fellow non-governmental parties as well as rivals like PDIP. In particular, the PKS does not mind keeping in touch relatively more secular nationalist parties. 

The AKP in Turkey took similar steps at the beginning of its development. Although its original cadres were known to have conservative Islamic ideals, they eventually chose a path that was more reformist and not merely Islamic. 

They, for example, want to connect with more secular opposition parties. Ideologically, they also tend to make Islamic values ​​the background instead of the main political discourse. 

This in turn has expanded their constituency and membership. If the party originally was capable of attracting only conservative Muslim adherents, the AKP went further than that. They are now able to touch other segments, especially those from various economic sectors and professions. 

The AKP’s move itself is often seen as a post-Islamism phenomenon popularized by Asef Bayat. This often refers to the practice in which Islamic-leaning parties are no longer pursuing, for example, a Shariah state but rather apply Shariah values ​​in their actions. For example, they do not focus on Islamic governance but pursue good governance. 

This strategy has become the hallmark of AKP and PKS. One of the things that can be highlighted is the issue of diversity that these parties are trying to exploit.

So, maybe PKS is currently imitating the AKP’s steps in its early days. Not only from in terms of its logo but also in a willingness to embrace different groups. In this context, visits to various parties may be the evidence. 

This is important for PKS, which as mentioned above wants to be more open. Beyond that, PKS wants to change from being exclusive. For example, they want to reach a wider group including young people. 

In light of these developments, the steps that PKS recently made has also turned it into an incarnation of AKP in Indonesia. This is not surprising, since the AKP is currently one of the most successful and durable parties in Turkey. This may be one of the reasons for PKS to choose AKP as its model. 

The next question is, whether the PKS will become dominant in Indonesia as the AKP is in Turkey. Of course, this remains to be seen. We’ll see if PKS’s further development will be similar to that of the AKP so that it will be as successful as Erdogan’s party. 

Editor’s note: The views expressed in this article are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of PinterPolitik.

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