Countering the Communist Imaginary: The Role of Nahdlatul Ulama in Indonesia’s 2014 and 2019 Presidential Elections

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Abstract

The article examines the significant role of Nahdlatul Ulama (The Revival of the Islamic Scholars, NU), which claims to be the largest Islamic organization in Indonesia, in defending presidential candidate Joko Widodo (Jokowi) from allegations that he was secretly a communist. Historically, NU has been one of the main drivers of the “communist imaginary” in Indonesia, promoting the idea that communism is a “latent threat” to the country. However, in the 2014 and 2019 presidential elections, NU endorsed Jokowi and sought instead to debunk the communist imaginary. Based on elite interviews and documentary research, this article argues that NU’s decision was based on its brokerage relationship with the Jokowi camp. In return for mobilizing both its vast membership and institutional networks to mitigate the weaponization of the communist imaginary against Jokowi, NU was able to secure for itself key government and bureaucratic offices that would strengthen its political influence in Indonesia.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)557-584
Number of pages28
JournalContemporary Southeast Asia
Volume43
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2021

Keywords

  • Communist
  • Elections
  • Indonesia
  • Islam
  • Nahdlatul Ulama

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