Post-Suharto Era

Post-Suharto Era

Since the fall of Suharto in 1998, Indonesia has been in a period of transition. This era has been called the period of "Reformasi" (Reform in Indonesian). This is due to a more open and liberal political and social environment in Indonesia after the Revolution of 1998 forced the resignation of the authoritarian President Suharto, ending the three decades of the New Order period.

The current period has been characterized by a careful political balance between long established sociopolitical norms and several emerging forces in Indonesian society. These balancing acts have produced compromises between those backing greater democracy and civilian rule and the interests of the still powerful military of Indonesia; between the growing force of Islamism and the desire to maintain secular government; between demands for greater regional autonomy and supporters of the older centralized state; and between the economic ideologies and policies of neoliberalism and the those of the welfare state.Fact|date=February 2007

The process of "reformasi" in Indonesia has also been characterized by greater freedom of speech in marked contrast with the censorship of the New Order-era. In the political sphere this has led to a more open political debate in the news media, as well as a flowering of cultural expression in the arts. In addition to longstanding political and cultural debates, Indonesia today has been shaped by a number of events and phenomena of global significance. These have included the growing attentions of the Western world on Indonesia since the Islamic terrorism following the September 11, 2001 attacks, and challenges in dealing with the Boxing Day Tsunami of 2004.

Fall of Suharto

The Revolution of 1998 lead to subsequent changes and reform of Indonesia's various governmental institutions, reforms upon the structures of the judiciary, legislature, and executive office. Generally the fall of Suharto in 1998 is traced from events starting in 1996, when forces opposed to the New Order regime began to rally around Megawati Sukarnoputri, head of the PDI and daughter of the founding president Sukarno. When Suharto attempted to have Megawati removed as head of this party in a back-room deal, student activists loyal to Megawati occupied the headquarters of PDI in Jakarta. This culminated in Black Saturday on July 27, when the Indonesian military broke up the demonstrations.

These actions, along with increasing concerns over human rights violations in Indonesian-occupied East Timor, began to unsettle Suharto's normally friendly relations with Western nations Australia, Great Britain, and the United States. These further worsened when the Asian financial crisis of 1997 reached Indonesia, highlighting the rampant corruption of the Suharto regime as well.

Economic instability from the crisis affected much of the country, in the form of increased prices for staple foods and goods, and lowered standards of living and quality of life. These touched off riots, many targeting ethnic Chinese-Indonesians; bolstered by the findings of Parliamentary and independent investigations, it is often theorized that these anti-Chinese riots were instigated or aided by the military to divert anger away from Suharto himself.Fact|date=June 2008

Growing dissatisfaction with Suharto's authoritarian rule and the rapid erosion of the economy led many, chiefly the younger generation, to renew their protests directly against the regime. In 1998, Suharto made the decision to stand before the parliament for a re-election and won. The result was considered so outrageous that students occupied the Parliament. Suharto soon stood down from the presidency, and named Jusuf Habibie (of Suharto's own Golkar party) his successor. Considered the unseen power behind the throne, General Wiranto of the Chief of Staff over the military that was central to the New Order, is believed to have been behind the decision of Suharto to step down.Fact|date=June 2008

Habibie Presidency (1998-1999)

On Suharto's resignation, Vice President Jusuf Habibie was sworn in as President of Indonesia. As President, Habibie undertook numerous political reforms.

In February 1999, Habibie's Government passed the Political Parties Law. [cite web
title = Undang-Undang RI No 2 Tahun 1999 Tentang Partai Politik
publisher =
accessdate = 2006-10-30
] Under this law, political parties were not limited to just three as had been the case under the Suharto regime. Political parties were also not required to have Pancasila as their ideology. This resulted in the emergence of many political parties and 48 would go on to compete in the 1999 Legislative Election.

In May 1999, Habibie's Government passed the Regional Autonomy Law. [cite web
title = Undang-Undang RI No 22 Tahun 1999 Tentang Pemerintahan Daerah
publisher =
accessdate = 2006-10-31
] This law was the first step in decentralizing Indonesia's Government and in allowing Provinces to have more part in Governing their Province.

The Press became liberated under Habibie's Government although the Ministry of Information continued to exist.

Habibie also released political prisoners such as Sri Bintang Pamungkas, Muchtar Pakpahan, and Xanana Gusmao.

Habibie also presided over the 1999 legislative elections, the first free election since the 1955 Legislative Election. This election was supervised by the independent General Elections Commission (KPU) instead of an elections commission filled with government ministers as had been the case during Suharto's regime.

In a move that surprised many, and angered some, Habibie called for a referendum on the future of East Timor. Subsenquently, on August 30, the inhabitants of East Timor voted to break away from Indonesian rule and become an independent nation. The territorial loss to Indonesia harmed Habibie's popularity and political alliances.

Following Habibie's presidency, Abdurrahman Wahid and Megawati Sukarnoputri served as president. In 2004 Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono was elected President--a position he has held since. Yudhoyono's coalition, which brings together figures from the military, business community, and conservative Islam, has restabilized the office of the Presidency. [Kearney, Marianne. "Waiting for democracy's dividend," "AlJazeera (English)," May 19, 2008 ]

Wahid Presidency (1999-2001)

In 1999, Abdurrahman Wahid became President of Indonesia. His first Cabinet, dubbed the National Unity Cabinet, was a Coalition Cabinet which consisted of members of various political parties. PDI-P, PKB, Golkar, PPP, PAN, and Justice Party (PK). Non-partisans and the military were also represented in the Cabinet. Wahid then went on to make two administrative reforms. The first administrative reform was to abolish the Ministry of Information, the Suharto's regime main weapon in controlling the media while the second administrative reform was to disband the Ministry of Welfare which had become corrupt and extortionist under the Suharto regime. [Barton (2002), p. 290.]

Regional unrest: Aceh, Irian Jaya, and Maluku

Wahid's plan in Aceh was to give it a referendum. However, this referendum would be to decide on various modes of autonomy rather than to decide on independence like in East Timor. Wahid also wanted to adopt a softer stance towards Aceh by having less military personnel on the ground. In March, Wahid's Government began to open negotiations with the Free Aceh Movement (GAM). Two months later, in May, the Government signed a memorandum of understanding with GAM to last until the beginning of 2001, by which time both signatories would have breached the agreement [cite book | last = Conceicao | first = J.F | title = Indonesia's Six Years of Living Dangerously | publisher = Horizon Books | date = 2005 | location = Singapore | pages = pp. 30-31 | id = ISBN 981-05-2307-6 ] .

On 30th December, Wahid visited Jayapura the capital of Papua province (then known as "Irian Jaya"). During his visit, Wahid was successful in convincing West Papuan leaders that he was a force for change and even encouraged the use of the name Papua. [Barton, pages 293]

In September 2000, Wahid declared martial law in Maluku. By now, it was evident that Laskar Jihad were being assisted by members of the military and it was also apparent that they were financed by Fuad Bawazier, the last Minister of Finance to have served under Suharto.Fact|date=June 2008 During the same month, the West Papuans raised their Morning Star flag. Wahid's response was to allow the West Papuans to do this provided that the Morning Star flag was placed lower than the Indonesian flag [Barton (2002), page 340] For this, he was severely criticized by Megawati and Akbar. On 24th December 2000, a series of bombings were directed against churches in Jakarta and in eight cities across Indonesia.

Possible lifting of the ban on Marxism-Leninism

Also during the month of March, Wahid caused a lot of stir by suggesting that the 1966 Provisional People's Consultative Assembly (MPRS) resolution on the banning of Marxism-Leninism be lifted [cite web | coauthors = ryi/wis/sal | title = Dari Secangkir Kopi ke Hawa Nafsu | publisher = Kompas | date = 2000-04-14 | url = | accessdate = 2006-12-30 ] . Out of the members of Government, only PKB supported the suggestion. The suggestion never amounted to anything, however it caused leftist intellectual activities to start to blossom. After having been harshly suppressed by the New Order for more than three decades, socialist and Marxist books, Che Guevara posters, and leftist intellectual communities and groups flourished widelyFact|date=June 2008.

Relationship with the military

When he ascended to the Presidency, one of Wahid's goals was to reform the military and to take it out of its dominant socio-political role. In this venture, Wahid found an ally in Agus Wirahadikusumah who he made Commander of Kostrad in March. In July, Agus began uncovering a scandal involving Dharma Putra, a foundation with affiliations to Kostrad. Through Megawati, military members began pressuring Wahid to remove Agus. Wahid gave in to the pressure but then planned to have Agus appointed as the Army Chief of Staff to which top military leaders responded by threatening to retire and Wahid once again bowed down to pressure [cite book | last = Conceicao | first = J.F | title = Indonesia's Six Years of Living Dangerously | publisher = Horizon Books | date = 2005 | location = Singapore | pages = p. 21 | id = ISBN 981-05-2307-6 ] .

Wahid's relationship with the military deteriorated even further when in July it was revealed that Laskar Jihad had arrived in Maluku and was being armed by the military. Laskar Jihad, a radical Islamic militia had earlier in the year planned to go to Maluku and assist Muslims there in their communal conflict with the Christians. Wahid had ordered military to block Laskar Jihad from going to Maluku, but nevertheless they still made it to Maluku and they were then being armed with what turned out to be military weapons [Barton (2002), page 306] .

Buloggate and Bruneigate

2000 saw Wahid embroiled in two scandals which would damage his Presidency. In May, the State Logistics Agency (BULOG) reported that US$4 million was missing from its cash reserve. The missing cash was then attributed to Wahid's own masseur who had claimed that Wahid sent him to Bulog to collect the cash [Barton (2002), page 304] . Although the money was returned, Wahid's opponents took the chance of accusing him of being involved in the scandal and of being aware of what his masseur was up to. At the same time, Wahid was also accused of keeping US$2 million for himself. The money was a donation by the Sultan of Brunei to provide assistance in Aceh. However, Wahid failed to account for the money.

Gathering political opposition and removal from power

By the end of 2000, there were many within the political elite who were disillusioned with Wahid. The most obvious person who showed this disillusion was Amien Rais who showed regret at supporting Wahid to the Presidency the previous year. Amien also attempted to rally opposition by encouraging Megawati and Akbar to flex their political muscles. Megawati surprisingly defended Wahid whilst Akbar preferred to wait for the 2004 Legislative Elections. At the end of November, 151 DPR members signed a petition calling for the impeachment of Wahid [Barton (2002), page 345] .

In January 2001, Wahid made the announcement that Chinese New Year was to become an optional holiday [cite web | last = Chang | first = Yau Hoon | title = How to be Chinese | publisher = Inside Indonesia | date = April 2004 | url =
accessdate = 2006-12-31
] . Wahid followed this up in February by lifting the ban on the display of Chinese characters and the importing of Chinese publications. In February, Wahid visited Northern Africa as well as Saudi Arabia to undertake the hajj pilgrimage [Barton (2002), page 352] . Wahid made his last overseas visit in June 2001 when he visited Australia.

At meeting with university rectors on 27th January 2001, Wahid commented on the possibility of Indonesia descending into anarchy. Wahid then made the suggestion that he may be forced to dissolve the DPR if that happened [Barton (2002), page 348] . Although the meeting was off-the-record, it caused quite a stir and added to the fuel of the movement against him. On 1st February, the DPR met to issue a memorandum against Wahid. Two memorandums constitutes an MPR Special Session where the impeachment and removal of a President would be legal. The vote was overwhelmingly for the memorandum and PKB members could only walk out in protest. The memorandum caused widespread protests by NU members. In East Java, NU members went attacked Golkar's regional offices. In Jakarta, Wahid's opposition began accusing him of encouraging the protests. Wahid denied it and went to talk to the protesters at the town of Pasuruan, encouraging them to get off the streets [Barton (2002), pages 351-352] . Nevertheless, NU protesters continued to show their support for Wahid and in April, made the announcement that they were ready to defend and die for the president.

In March, Wahid tried to counter the opposition by moving against dissidents within his own cabinet. Minister of Justice Yusril Ihza Mahendra was removed for making public his demands for the President's resignation while Minister of Forestry Nurmahmudi Ismail was also removed under the suspicion of chanelling his department's funds to Wahid's opposition. In response to this, Megawati began to distance herself and did not show up for the inauguration of the Ministers' replacement. On 30th April, the DPR issued a second memorandum and on the next day called for an MPR Special Session to be held on 1st August.

By July, Wahid grew desperate and ordered Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, the Coordinating Minister for Politics and Security to declare a State of Emergency. Yudhoyono refused and Wahid removed him from his position. Finally on 20th July, Amien declared that the MPR Special Session will be brought forward to 23rd July. TNI, having had a bad relationship with Wahid through his tenure as President, stationed 40,000 troops in Jakarta and placed tanks with their turrets pointing at the Presidential Palace in a show of force [Barton (2002), page 363] . On 23rd July, the MPR unanimously voted to impeach Wahid and to replace him with Megawati as President. Wahid continued to insist that he was the President and stayed for some days in the Presidential Palace but bowed down to reality and left the residence on 25th July to immediately fly overseas to America for health treatment.

Megawati Presidency (2001–2004)

Under Megawati Sukarnoputri, the process of democratic reform begun under Habibie and Wahid continued, albeit slowly and erratically. Megawati appeared to see her role mainly as a symbol of national unity, and she rarely actively intervened in government business. Under her tenure, the "Kabinet Gotong Royong" Mutual Assistance Cabinet helped govern the country. It included Megawati's successor, the retired General Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. The military, disgraced at the time of Suharto's fall, regained much of its influence. Corruption continued to be pervasive, though Megawati herself was seldom blamed for this.

Some Indonesian scholars explained Megawati's apparent passivity in office by reference to Javanese mythology. Megawati, they said, saw her father, Sukarno, as a "Good King" of Javanese legend. Suharto was the "Bad Prince" who had usurped the Good King's throne. Megawati was the Avenging Daughter who overthrew the Bad Prince and regained the Good King's throne. Once this had been achieved, they said, Megawati was content to reign as the Good Queen and leave the business of government to othersFact|date=February 2007. Some prominent critics such as Benedict Anderson jokingly referred to the president as "Miniwati." [citation
last =Mydans
first =Seth
title =Woman in the News; A Daughter of Destiny; Megawati Sukarnoputri
newspaper =The New York Times
year =2001
date =July 24, 2001
url =

Although by 2004 Indonesia's economy had stabilized and partly recovered from the 1997 crisis, unemployment and poverty remained high, and there was considerable disappointment at Megawati's presidency. The Indonesian Constitution was amended to provide for the direct election of the President, and Megawati stood for a second term. She consistently trailed in the opinion polls, due in part to the preference for male candidates among Muslim voters, and in part due to what was widely seen as a mediocre performance in office. Despite a somewhat better than expected performance in the first round of the elections, in the second round she was defeated by Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. Megawati neither conceded defeat, nor congratulated her successor, nor attended his inauguration. She simply vacated the Presidential Palace and returned to private life without making any statement.

Yudhoyono Presidency (2004-Present)

Two months after he assumed office, the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami struck in the province of Aceh and many other countries along the Indian Ocean coastline. Three months later, an aftershock of the earthquake which triggered the tsunami occurred in Nias Island. In 2006 Mount Merapi erupted and this was followed by an earthquake that struck Yogyakarta. Two months later, there was another earthquake which triggered a small tsunami that struck some parts on the south coast of West Java.

Indonesia also suffered a small outbreak of bird flu and endured the Sidoarjo mud flow. In 2007 severe floods struck Jakarta. Yudhoyono allowed Jakarta Governor Sutiyoso to open the Manggarai watergate with the risk of flooding the Presidential Palace. [ [ Pemerintah Kabupaten Situbondo - PRESIDEN PERSILAHKAN GUBERNUR BUKA PINTU AIR MANGGARAI ] ] Some research questions the political future of Yudhoyono if the pattern of the disasters continues. [ [ "Superstitions About Indonesia's Disasters May Affect Political Fortunes"] , VOA News, July 25, 2006.]

On October 1, 2005, suicide bombings occurred on the island of Bali. The attacks bear the hallmarks of the militant Islamic group Jemaah Islamiah (JI) -- a group with links to Al-Qaeda -- though the police investigation is ongoing. This group was also responsible for the 2002 Bali bombing. Yudhoyono condemned the attack, promising to "hunt down the perpetrators and bring them to justice.". [ [ BBC NEWS | Asia-Pacific | Bali bombs 'were suicide attacks' ] ]

In 2005, the economic growth was 5.6% [ [ [ekonomi-nasional [Kilas Berita Pertumbuhan Ekonomi 2005 5,6 Persen ] ] which decreased to 5.4% in 2006 [ [ Seputar Ekonomi ] ] Inflation reached 17.11% in 2005 [] but decreased to 6.6% in 2006. Yudhoyono also allocated more funds in an effort to further decrease poverty. In 2004, 11 trillion rupiah was set aside, increasing to 23 trillion in 2005 and 42 trillion in 2006. For 2007, 51 trillion was allocated. [ [ :: - berita utama :: ] ] In March 2005 and again in October 2005, Yudhoyono made the unpopular decision to cut fuel subsidies and increase, leading to increases in fuel prices of 29% and 125% respectively. [cite book | last = Redaksi Tempo | title = SBY-JK Duet Atau Duel: Edisi Khusus Setahun Pemerintahan SBY-JK | date = 24th October-30th October 2005 Edition | location = Jakarta, Indonesia | pages = p. 90 ] The increased price of fuel meant that the government allocated more money to subsidize fuel prices in lieu of other priorities such as health, education, and infrastructure building. The poor were somewhat compensated by the Direct Cash Assistance (BLT), but the subsidy cutting damaged Yudhoyono's popularity. In May 2008, rising oil prices contributed to Yudhoyono's decision to again cut fuel subsidies, which were the subject of protests in May and June 2008.



* Barton, Greg (2002). Abdurrahman Wahid: Muslim Democrat, Indonesian President. Singapore: UNSW Press, p.320. ISBN 0-86840-405-5, pages 290

Further reading

* Dijk, Kees van. (2001). "A country in despair. Indonesia between 1997 and 2000." KITLV Press, Leiden, ISBN 90-6718-160-9

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