« 2018 regional elections: why is there a disconnect between local and national politics? » by Abdil Mughis Mudhoffir and Rafiqa Qurrata A’yun, 18/07/2018, Indonesia at Melbourne
In late June, Indonesia held elections for district heads, mayors and governors in 171 regions. Many observers predicted the elections would exacerbate the polarisation of society — between Islamists on one hand and nationalists on the other — mirroring the dynamics of the 2017 Jakarta gubernatorial election.
Religious identity politics did play a role in some local election outcomes, as we discuss below. However, observers also predicted the local elections would reflect political alliances at the national level. In fact, most coalitions supporting candidates at the local level represented different political alliances and different divisions to those seen at the national level.
If anything, the regional elections demonstrated that there is no decisive ideological line differentiating most parties from the others. Political alliances are highly flexible and there appear to be no definitive political enemies.
For example, at the national level, Gerindra and the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) are opposition parties, but in local contests they readily align themselves with the same parties they oppose at the national level. Interestingly, decisions to build local political alliances are often made by the members of the party’s central board, not the local branches.