Research Project (3)

The Electoral Paradox of Party Institutionalisation: The Case of PKS in Eastern Indonesia (published online by Asian Studies Review)

What was behind the surprising electoral success of an Islamist party in one of Indonesia’s most Catholic regions and why was this success short-lived? This article argues that in Ngada District on Flores Island the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) in 2014 deftly mobilised local voters not because of its own organisational and programmatic discipline but because of a ‘project of commonness,’ which refers to adapting prevailing local patterns of personalistic local electoral competition. The party’s growing popularity in Ngada, however, paradoxically cratered after it sought to build solid and coherent relations with the electorate in preparation for the subsequent election. The case of PKS in Flores thus suggests that under certain conditions in which voter-party linkages are highly fragmented and cleavage-based politics remained undeveloped, party institutionalisation can harm electoral performance.