The fall of a Javanese patriarch
: a study of the downfall of Soeharto

  • Chwee Neo Lim

    Student thesis: Coursework Masters - CDU


    This study seeks to look into the causes of the downfall of President Soeharto of Indonesia. Soeharto's downfall was the result of a combination of factors but this paper will argue that the main cause for his downfall was the precise form of his New Order government, which was that of an authoritarian rule with little opportunities for participation. His authoritarian rule ensured that the state was separated from society and when the state was no longer answerable to society, the government was able to rule in the interests of the elite ignoring the interests of the masses. This was possible because the masses are poor, socially backward and politically passive, controlled by a strong military. Soeharto used rewards to benefit the few and as well as rewards he also used repression to ensure that his rule was not challenged. His method of governing the country, that of an authoritarian rule, in the short term created a 'strong' state but in the long term it weakened the state.

    Ruling the country in an authoritarian manner, as in Soeharto's case, the state became vulnerable to Soeharto's personal agenda and when this happened the state, because of the elite few, made decisions for the ruling elite, which may be beneficial to the state only on a short-term basis. On the long-term basis this weakened the state. Soeharto's legitimacy in leading the new Order government rested on the argument that it was a developmentalĀ regime dedicated to economic achievement for all Indonesians. Therefore, Indonesians must be prepared to make sacrifices for the benefit of the country. When benefits were given to the elite few and when repression occurred, the New Order government argued that it was necessary for the benefit of development. Development was often presented to foreigners under the cloak of democracy but in reality it was often conducted in a repressive and authoritative manner. As long as the regime was developmental, most Indonesians were prepared to accept Soeharto's legitimacy in ruling the country. However, when a crisis occurred, such as that of the 1997 economic crisis, it resulted in a loss of legitimacy for Soeharto's rule and caused his eventual downfall.
    Date of AwardJul 1999
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorDennis Shoesmith (Supervisor)

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