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  • When Do Religious Parties Moderate?Religious Party Moderation in Indonesia, Turkey, and India
  • Allison Berland (bio)

The previous articles examined cases of the rise, decline, and absence of religious parties across the globe. A critical question about the future of religious parties is the following: under what conditions do these parties become more moderate? Studies of the evolution of Christian Democratic Parties in Europe have argued that the inclusion of religious parties into democratic electoral politics creates the conditions (i.e. institutional constraints) that foster moderation.1 Samuel Huntington captured a version of this idea with the term "democratic bargain," implying a trade-off between democratic participation and political moderation.2

Subsequent research—particularly with respect to the Islamic Parties in the Middle East—has tested whether the inclusion of religious parties into democratic electoral politics, often referred to as the inclusion-moderation hypothesis, is sufficient to achieve moderation. In addition, other factors, such as a religious party's internal dynamics, play an important role in moderation.3 More recently, this line of research has examined the role of religious party moderation in an Asian context, such as India and Indonesia.4

This article compares the trajectory of religious party moderation for three parties: the Prosperous Justice Party (Partai Keadilan Sejahtera, or PKS) in Indonesia, the Justice and Development Party (AK Parti or AKP) in Turkey, and the Bharatiya Janata party (BJP) in India. In exploring different patterns of religious party moderation, this study finds that inclusion in democratic electoral politics is not necessarily sufficient to create the conditions for persistent moderation, corroborating studies indicating that other factors play a critical role in moderation. These cases also suggest that the moderation of religious parties is both non-linear and a highly context specific process.

The article is organized into three sections: The first section defines key terms used in this study and introduces readers to the literature on religious [End Page S-131] party moderation. The second section examines the trajectory of three religious parties, presenting different patterns of party moderation. First, the PKS in Indonesia illustrates a case of a religious party that demonstrated an increasing level of moderation over time. The second case, the AKP in Turkey, offers an example of a religious party that initially came to power espousing a moderate platform, but subsequently shown a decreasing level of moderation. The BJP in India presents a third pattern of moderation, which demonstrates oscillating degrees of moderation over time. The final section presents a discussion of the findings.

For this study, I use the term religious party to refer to parties that use, or have used, religious symbols, rituals, or appeals to mobilize electoral support.5 The two Islamic parties studied here, the PKS and AKP, fall into this category. The BJP has at times been identified as an ethnic party, and other times as a religious party.6 Since the BJP has used religious-cultural appeals to mobilize electoral support in the past (e.g., a mobilization campaign to build a Hindu temple), the BJP for this study is considered as a religious party.

Second, I used the term moderation to refer to the willingness of a religious party to (1) accept the competitive institutional framework of democratic electoral politics, (2) decrease the political salience of a party's religious goals, and (3) embrace democratic norms and values, such as tolerance of other perspectives, freedom of expression, and the protection of human rights.7 The following analysis of religious party moderation will explore these dimensions of moderation.

Erik Jones' article discusses the recent decline in electoral support of Christian Democratic parties after a long period of hegemonic influence in three European countries. Long before their recent decline in electoral popularity, Christian Democratic parties was moderate in all aspects of the term described above: they operate within the competitive institutional framework of democratic electoral politics, reduced the political emphasis of religious goals, and embraced democratic norms and values.

Yet, the moderate behavior of Christian Democratic Parties has not always been the case. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Catholic movements at the time opposed liberal democracy. For example, the Belgian Catholic movement of the 1870s...


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pp. S-131-S-143
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