In contrast to Indonesia, politics in the Pacific Islands seems at first sight more parochial, more fluid and less party-centred. Yet although party systems play a much more robust role at the national level in Indonesia, at the local level, Indonesian politics bears some similarity to those in the Pacific, especially in Melanesia. This paper seeks out patterns of similarity and difference in political competition in Indonesia and the Pacific Islands. We survey five major factors shaping the nature of the party systems in the two regions:
- broad context (size, geography and economic prosperity);
- the role of electoral systems and the rules governing parties;
- ethnic and religious identities;
- ideological issues or their absence; and
- how patronage shapes political allegiances. Despite obvious differences, we find some similar patterns of loose and fluid political party allegiances at the local level.