Home » Publications » Vol. 19, No. 2 (2023) » Non-Religious and Ethnic Orientations in the Voting Process: A Recent Study of Javanese Voters

Non-Religious and Ethnic Orientations in the Voting Process: A Recent Study of Javanese Voters


Previous studies on Javanese voters in Indonesia emphasised sociological factors, mainly religious and ethnic, in the shaping of voting decisions. Religious positions and socio-religious orientation encourage partisan politics of the voters in elections. In the democratic era, the behaviour of Javanese voters outside the area of the Javanese ethnic bases in Central Java, Yogyakarta, and East Java resulted in the same explanation. This article however argues that Javanese ethnic identity is not the foundation for decisions when selecting candidates for regional heads; instead, this foundation is based on religious similarity. This qualitative observational study examines the logic of vote shifting from the incumbent candidate to the challenger in the 2020 pilkada (elections for regional leader) of Blitar Regency, Indonesia. It reveals that emotional closeness between voters and the challenger encourages electoral shift. The closeness is built upon two aspects: voters’ involvement in tarekat (Sufi order) activities and networks that attach to both the regent and vice vice-regent candidates as well as the murid (pupil) relationship with the vice-regent candidate. Another aspect is the similarities between voters and Muslim massbased organisations (MBOs) that support the challenger. Moreover, the emotional closeness between the incumbent and their constituents explains voters’ decision to keep voting for him. Based on the fieldwork findings, emotional closeness can be interpreted as a form of attachment or loyalty that affects voters’ perceptions of candidates. Therefore, consideration of the emotional bond between voters and candidate extends the logic of Javanese voting behaviour, as previously highlighted in the explanation of religious and cultural factors.



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