Aspinall, Edward Thomas
This thesis presents a study of political opposition in the decade leading to the end of President Suharto's New Order regime in Indonesia. In particular it focuses on the contribution of opposition forces to the process of political democratisation and the interplay in that process between societal/opposition initiative and disunity within the governing elite. Following the literature on authoritarian regimes, the study proposes a typology of opposition: illegal, semi‚ alegal and...[Show more] proto-opposition. Each of these are responses to the combination of repression and pluralism typical of authoritarianism. Although a mood of discontent was apparently ubiquitous in the later years of Suharto's rule, opposition remained dispersed through a wide range of institutions and was structurally weak. Much of it was located along the blurred boundary between state and society. ¶ The study focuses on the period of limited liberalisation (keterbukaan, 'openness') between approximately 1989 and 1994. Following the mainstream democratisation literature, the thesis concludes that conflict within the governing elite (in this case between a substantial section of the Armed Forces leadership and the President and his camp) was an important pre-condition for the limited loosening of political controls from 1989. From the outset, however, societal agency played an important role in conditioning the emergence of nascent 'soft-line' reform groups within the regime. ¶ In a series of case studies (elite dissident groups, Non-Governmental Organisations, student dissent and the Indonesian Democracy Party, PDI) I examine the methods by which opposition groups responded to divisions within the governing elite and made use of the opportunities thus afforded them to expand the scope of political action. In a process typical of authoritarian regimes which initiate liberalisation, in the years after 1989 an escalation of opposition mobilisation took place. ¶ However, by the mid-1990s, President Suharto was able to reassert control over the ruling elite, especially the army, facilitating a retreat from liberalisation policies. Increasing 'sultanisation' of the regime undermined its legitimacy and precluded a resolution of its political problems, especially the succession issue, from within the ruling elite. After the economic collapse of 1997-98, in a 'sequence of disaffection' typical of regimes where the hard-line element is strong, a society-initiated process of regime change began. Mobilisation, pioneered by the most politicised groups (notably university students), propelled other social and political forces into action, and stimulated the final fracturing of the ruling elite and the abandonment of Suharto by a substantial part of it. The legacy of authoritarian rule, however, meant that opposition remained structurally weak and divided, allowing for the replacement of Suharto's government by a reconstituted version of it.
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