Skip to main content

Indonesia’s Democratic Opening

  • R. William Liddle

ON 21 MAY 1998, INDONESIA'S AUTHORITARIAN PRESIDENT SUHARTO, in power since 1966, abruptly resigned from office and was succeeded by his vice-president, Bacharuddin Jusuf (B. J.) Habibie. Though retired for decades, Suharto was an army general and relied heavily on the support of the armed forces to rule this vast archipelago, the world's fourth largest country. Habibie is a civilian with long government service as minister of research and industry. President Suharto, Habibie often claimed, taught him everything he knew about politics.

Hide All

1 A colourful Habibie biography, written by an assistant, is Makka, A. Makmur, BJH: Bacharuddin Jusuf Habibie, His Life and Career, 3rd ed., Jakarta, Cidesindo, 1996 .

2 Huntington, Samuel P., The Third Wave: Democratization in the Twentieth Century, Norman, Oklahoma and London, University of Oklahoma Press, 1991 .

3 For example, Liddle, R. William, ‘Indonesia: Suharto's Tightening Grip’, Journal of Democracy, 7:4 (10 1966), pp. 5872 .

4 The classic list of variables is in Dahl, Robert A., Polyarchy: Participation and Opposition, New Haven, Conn., Yale University Press, 1971 . A contemporary version is Diamond, Larry, Linz, Juan and Lipset, Seymour Martin, Democracy in Developing Countries, Boulder, Colorado, Lynne Rienner, 1989 .

5 For an extended discussion, see Liddle, R. William, ‘Coercion, Cooptation, and the Management of Ethnic Relations in Indonesia’, in Brown, Michael E. and Ganguly, Sumit (eds), Government Policies and Ethnic Relations in Asia and the Pacific, Cambridge, MIT Press, 1997, pp. 273320 .

6 Indonesia's Muslim population (86 per cent of the total) can be divided into three groups: abangan, traditionalist and modernist. Abangan is a Javanese term, applied to Muslims whose religious beliefs and practices are more animist and Hindu than Islamic. Traditionalists are pious Muslims who adhere to the Syafi'i school of jurisprudence in Sunni Islam. Modernists are pious Muslims who reject the jurisprudential schools and their reliance on the authority of religious teachers/scholars, the ulama. Instead, modernists emphasize the believer's right to interpret the Qur'an directly. These distinctions were first made by Geertz, Clifford in The Religion of Java, Glencoe, The Free Press, 1960 . In recent decades there has been a general tendency for abangan to become pious Muslims. The boundaries between modernist and traditionalist have also become blurred, largely under the influence of modern Western-style schooling. None the less, the categories remain politically significant. There is also a growing number of secular Muslims who do not affiliate with any religiously-based political organizations.

7 Moertono, Soemarsaid, State and Statecraft in Old Java, Ithaca, New York, Cornell Modern Indonesia Project, 1968 .

8 Said, Salim, ‘Suharto's Armed Forces: Building a Power Base in New Order Indonesia, 1966-1998’, Asian Survey, 38: 6 (06 1998), pp. 535–52.

9 Cribb, Robert (ed.), The Indonesian Killings 1965-1966, Clayton, Victoria, Monash University Centre of Southeast Asian Studies, 1990 .

10 Soebijono, A. S. S. Tarabunan, Mukmin, Hidayat and Astoeti, Roekmini Koesoemo, Dwifungsi ABRI, Yogyakarta, Gakjah Mada University Press, 1997 .

11 Undang-Undang Dasar Negara Republik Indonesia Tahun 1945’, in Padmo Wahjono, S. H., Negara Republik Indonesia, Jakarta, Rajawali, 1982, p. 145 (my translation).

12 This argument is examined more fully in Liddle, R. William, ‘A Useful Fiction: Democratic Legitimation in New Order Indonesia’, in Taylor, Robert (ed), The Politics of Elections in Southeast Asia, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1996, pp. 3460 .

13 The phrasing is taken from the Preamble to the 1945 Constitution. See Padmo Wahjono, op.cit., p. 144 (my translation).

14 Laporan Stenografi Amanat Presiden Soeharto pada Malam Raman Tamah Dengan Pengurus KNPI 19July 1982’, Jakarta, 1982 , typescript. This is an unofficial transcription of an extemporaneous speech in which President Suharto explained at length to young Golkar leaders the deep historical roots of New Order values.

15 The best account of the formation of ICMI is Anwar, M. Syafi'i, ‘Islam, Negara, dan Formasi Sosial dalam Orde Baru’, Ulumul Qur'an, 3: 3 (1992), Supplement, pp. 128 .

16 A close account of corruption in the 1992 election is White Book’ on the 1992 General Election in Indonesia, translated with an Introduction by King, Dwight Y., Ithaca, Cornell Mordern Indonesia Project, 1994 .

17 Padmo Wahjono, ibid.

18 Hill, Hal, The Indonesian Economy Since 1966, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1996, p. 1517 .

19 Hill, ibid., p. 193.

20 Salim Said, op.cit.

21 Watch, Asia, ‘East Timor: The November 12 Massacre and its Aftermath’, Indonesia Issues, Nos 17-18 (12 1991).

22 Confidential telephone interview, Jakarta, 16 May 1998.

23 Confidential interview, Jakarta, August 1998.

24 Interviews with national Golkar leaders Akbar Tandjung, Theo Sambuaga and Tuswandi, Jakarta, 22-24 August 1998.

25 Liddle, R. William, ‘Habibie Under Siege? Elections Will Be the Real Test’, The Asian Wall Street Journal, 23 09 1998, p. 10 . The original research was reported in Liddle, R. William, ‘Evolution from Above: National Leadership and Local Development in Indonesia’, Journal of Asian Studies, 32:2 (02 1973), pp. 287309 .

26 Kompas, Jakarta, 21 07 1998, p. 1 . Kompas is the main Jakarta daily newspaper.

27 See for example the cover story on the armed forces and the dual function in Forum Keadilan, Jakarta, 19 10 1998, pp. 1019 . Forum Keadilan is a Jakarta newsweekly.

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Government and Opposition
  • ISSN: 0017-257X
  • EISSN: 1477-7053
  • URL: /core/journals/government-and-opposition
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 4 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 99 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 17th July 2018. This data will be updated every 24 hours.