Indonesian Democratic Transition: Implications for United States Policy
NATIONAL DEFENSE UNIV WASHINGTON DC INST FOR NATIONAL STRATEGIC STUDIES
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The onset of the Asian economic crisis in May 1997 assured the end of the tottering New Order regime of President Suharto. Economic collapse re-energized social and political grievances long muted by the cumulative effects of steady economic growth and political repression. In May 1998, the discredited Suharto regime collapsed. In June 1999, democratic elections led to the formation of a reform government led by President Abdurrahman Wahid. The Wahid administration did not begin from a position of great strength. It has relied on a coalition of forces the so-called Axis Force whose continued support is uncertain. Wahid 5 party gained only slightly more than 10 percent of the parliamentary vote held in June 1999, 50 he needs to maintain alliances with other parties in order to get legislation passed. Also, fearing national disintegration, Wahid selected a national unity cabinet that, while representing many regions, ethnicities, and religions, has been criticized for being inexperienced and lacking internal cohesion. In effect, Wahid is operating a parliamentary-style government within a presidential system. This complicates his challenge. The Wahid government must restore the economy, maintain the unity of the Indonesian state, and reform Indonesian political, economic, and military institutions. Crucial to success in all three areas is the need to redefine the roles and missions of Tentera Nasional Indonesia TNI, the Indonesian national military, in the national polity. Wahids success or failure bears directly and indirectly on important interests of the United States. The immediate test for the Wahid government is to hold TNI accountable for its long record of human rights abuses and economic corruption during the Suharto era. This requires institutional change as well as punishment of individual officers.
- Government and Political Science