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Indonesia: The New Order Under Suharto
Country Study > Chapter 1 > Historical Setting > The New Order Under Suharto

THE NEW ORDER UNDER SUHARTO


The transition from Sukarno's Guided Democracy to Suharto's New Order reflected a realignment of the country's political forces. The left had been bloodied and driven from the political stage, and Suharto was determined to ensure that the PKI would never reemerge as a challenge to his authority. Powerful new intelligence bodies were established in the wake of the coup: the Operational Command for the Restoration of Security and Order (Kopkamtib) and the State Intelligence Coordination Agency (Bakin). The PKI had been crushed on the leadership and cadre levels, but an underground movement remained in the villages of parts of Java that was methodically and ruthlessly uprooted by the end of 1968. Around 200,000 persons were detained by the military after the coup: these were divided into three categories depending on their involvement. The most active, Group A, those "directly involved" in the revolt, were sentenced by military courts to death or long terms in prison; Group B, less actively involved, were in many cases sent to prison colonies, such on Buru Island in the Malukus, where they remained under detention, in some cases until 1980; Group C detainees, mostly members of the PKI peasant organization, were generally released from custody. (As late as 1990, four persons were executed for involvement in the coup. Although the delay was explained as due to the length of the judicial appeals process, many observers believed that Suharto wanted to show that the passage of years had not softened his attitude toward communism.)

Communists aside, Suharto generally dealt with opposition or potential opposition with a blend of cooptation and nonlethal repression. According to political scientist Harold A. Crouch, Suharto's operating principle was the old Javanese dictum of alon alon asal kelakon, or "slow but sure." Thus, he gradually asserted control over ABRI, weeding out pro-Sukarno officers and replacing them with men on whom he could depend. The army was placed in a superior position in relation to the other services in terms of budgets, personnel, and equipment. Nasution, Indonesia's most senior general, was gently pushed aside after he left the post of minister of defense and security to become chairman of the DPR in early 1966. Although he later retired from public life, Nasution remained a potential rival to Suharto although he never publicly spoke out or exploited his favorable popular image.

Like Sukarno's Guided Democracy, the New Order under Suharto was authoritarian. There was no return to the relatively unfettered party politics of the 1950-57 period. In the decades after 1966, Suharto's regime evolved into a steeply hierarchical affair, characterized by tight centralized control and long-term personal rule. At the top of the hierarchy was Suharto himself, making important policy decisions and carefully balancing competing interests in a society that was, despite strong centralized rule, still extremely diverse. Arrayed below him was a bureaucratic state in which ABRI played the central role. Formally, the armed forces' place in society was defined in terms of the concept of dwifungsi. Unlike other regimes in Southeast Asia, such as Thailand or Burma, where military regimes promised an eventual (if long-postponed) transition to civilian rule, the military's dual political-social function was considered to be a permanent feature of Indonesian nationhood. Its personnel played a pivotal role not only in the highest ranks of the government and civil service but also on the regional and local levels, where they limited the power of civilian officials. The armed forces also played a disproportionate role in the national economy through militarymanaged enterprises or those with substantial military interests.

Although opposition movements and popular unrest were not entirely eliminated, Suharto's regime was extraordinarily stable compared with its predecessor. His success in governing the world's fourth most populous and, after India, ethnically most diverse nation is attributable to two factors: the military's absolute or near-absolute loyalty to the regime and the military's extensive political and administrative powers. In the mid-1980s, approximately 85 percent of senior officers were Javanese (although the percentage was declining). Suharto wisely averted a problem of many military regimes: the monopolization of the higher ranks by senior military officers who frustrate the aspirations of their juniors. In 1985 he ordered an extensive reorganization of the officer corps in which the Generation of 1945, who had taken part in the National Revolution, was largely retired, the younger generation promoted into command positions, and an extensive reorganization accomplished in order to promote efficiency

Other factors in stability include the establishment of a large number of corporatist-style organizations to link social groups in a subordinate relationship with the regime. These included organizations of a social, class, religious, and professional nature. Rather than imposing cultural and ideological homogeneity -- a virtually impossible task given the society's diversity -- Suharto revived the Sukarno-era concept of Pancasila. Suharto's approach to political conflict did not reject the use of coercion but supplemented it with a rhetoric of "consultation and consensus," which, like Pancasila, had its roots in the Sukarno and Japanese eras.

Data as of November 1992




Last Updated: November 1992


Editor's Note: Country Studies included here were published between 1988 and 1998. The Country study for Indonesia was first published in 1993. Where available, the data has been updated through 2008. The date at the bottom of each section will indicate the time period of the data. Information on some countries may no longer be up to date. See the "Research Completed" date at the beginning of each study on the Title Page or the "Data as of" date at the end of each section of text. This information is included due to its comprehensiveness and for historical purposes.

Note that current information from the CIA World Factbook, U.S. Department of State Background Notes, Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Country Briefs, the UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office's Country Profiles, and the World Bank can be found on Factba.se.

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