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Title: Parliamentary politics in Soeharto's Indonesia
Author: Indraneel, Datta
ISNI:       0000 0004 2695 2472
Awarding Body: School of Oriental and African Studies (University of London)
Current Institution: SOAS, University of London
Date of Award: 2003
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Prevailing perspectives on the role of the Indonesian Parliament (DPRlMPR) under President Soeharto's New Order deride it as a politically quiescent institution that had insignificant influence over policy-making. Indeed, approaches that evaluate the legitimacy and effectiveness of legislatures in terms of regularly held free and fair elections and the ability of parliamentarians to initiate or reject legislation will find scant evidence that the Indonesian parliament has played a significant role under Soeharto. From this conventional perspective, the DPR was politically insignificant, save, perhaps, as one of several instruments available to the authoritarian regime to legitimate its rule. Yet a closer look at the history of the New Order casts serious doubts over the notion of a placid legislature where nothing of substance ever took place. For example, the DPR was key in enabling Soeharto to become lawfully President in 1967, and was again instrumental in May 1998 by compelling the dictator to resign from office. This thesis examines the apparent paradox, and makes two clusters of arguments. The first cluster addresses the broad concerns of students of political systems, in particular authoritarianism, and makes two main points. First, there was far more political activity within the DPRlMPR under Soeharto than commonly assumed, especially in the final decade of his rule that is the focus of this study. Secondly, a close scrutiny of the Indonesian parliament demonstrates that the 'authoritarian' New Order underwent some important changes throughout its 32 years. In a nutshell, the New Order degenerated from collusion between capitalists, the military and the bureaucracy into 'monarchical' personal rule, losing some of its modem structures and much of the credibility of its claim to favour democracy. To use the terms coined by Max Weber and subsequently adapted by Juan Linz to the study of contemporary politics of transition, Soeharto's regime developed over the years from a bureaucratic-military authoritarian regime to one with strong 'sultanistic' features. A sultanistic regime is one that involves an increasingly discretionary use of the powers that have been usurped by the ruler. The second cluster of argument adds to scholarship on Indonesia in three respects. First, the factionalism among elites under Soeharto is shown to be far more complex than conventional views that have usually focussed on the Armed Forces to the relative neglect of civilian factionalism. The evidence also indicates that factional lines straddle the civil-military divide. Therefore, it is a false dichotomy to distinguish between civil and military factionalism since the two are inextricably intertwined. Examples of such alliances are discussed in chapters three and four. Secondly, a case is made about periodisation, and the accuracy of commonly accepted milestones in the last decade of the New Order. Again, the evidence gathered in this study points to some anachronisms regarding Indonesia's "Islamic tum," the political clout of the armed forces as an institution, and the cohesiveness of Soeharto's alleged 'inner circle'. The importance of pinpointing the origins of Soeharto' s cultivation of an Islamic middle class basis of support at the expense of the armed forces as an institution sheds considerable light on the balance of power between the officers and the palace, and in particular the validity of describing the New Order as a military dictatorship, as was commonly accepted in the late 1980s. The question of the New Order's 'Islamisation' is discussed in depth in chapter three. The third point examines the limit to Soeharto's sultanistic strategy. It is argued that the shift to absolutist rule, while undermining the logic of the bureaucratic-military authoritarian regime did not provide an alternative that accommodated the interests of powerful elites. Instead, it was perceived as threatening the long-term interests of key factions within both the political Islamic civilian elites and the military. Sultanism ushered unpredictability in the recruitment of elites and in the dispensation of patronage, and threatened the interests of the armed forces as an institution. It gradually alienated these crucial groups, paving the way for an unlikely tactical alliance between Armed Forces commander-in-chief General Wiranto and vice-president Habibie. The origins of this internal realignment in the regime are discussed in detail in chapters four and five. Chapter six brings this study into the final months of the New Order, and examines the background to the critical role played by the parliamentary institutions in giving Soeharto his coup de grace, when the DPR Speaker Harmoko called on the President to resign on 18 May 1998, three days before Soeharto stepped down. We conclude by highlighting the continuities between parliament under the New Order and in the Post-Soeharto era, and assessing the likely role of parliament in Indonesia's democratization.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available