Beawiharta / Reuters Anti-riot police block protesters outside the parliament building in Jakarta, March 2, 2010.

Under Suharto's Shadow

Jokowi and the Indonesian Military

To many Indonesians, the 2014 presidential victory of former entrepreneur Joko Widodo, popularly known as Jokowi, signaled the rise of a new generation of civilian leaders. After 30 years of authoritarian rule under General Suharto, the country began to transition to a democratic system in 1998 when Suharto resigned following popular protests triggered by the 1997 financial crisis. But even post-Suharto, old players from the military continued to play a role in Indonesian politics. Jokowi’s election was seen as a sign that this tradition was finally fading, particularly since his main opponent was Prabowo Subianto, an ex-military commander who had the backing of the majority of the political parties. 

But the hope that came with Jokowi’s victory last year has deflated. Indonesia has watched its new president struggle to navigate a system that is still dominated by party oligarchs. With a hostile opposition-led parliament, Jokowi has been politically constrained and even his own party kept him on a tight leash during his first six months in office. Megawati Sukarnoputri, a former Indonesian president and the current leader of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle, the country’s largest party, appeared to have more influence than Jokowi on ministerial appointments and presidential decisions. Many of Jokowi’s political supporters have thus been left disappointed.

Joko "Jokowi" Widodo gestures during his presidential campaign in Jakarta, July 9, 2014.

To try to gain control and solidify his power base, Jokowi has turned to an old source of power in Indonesia—army generals. He has appointed a number of prominent military leaders and former generals to key positions: Gatot Nurmantyo, the current Army Chief of Staff, was tapped to head the military and Sutiyoso, a former army general, was picked to lead the state intelligence agency. Earlier, he had selected Ryamizard Ryacudu as his defense minister and Luhut Panjaitan as his chief of staff, both of whom were once high profile army generals under the Suharto regime.  

This marks the first time since the 1998 democratic reforms that

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