- January 17, 2013

The Smiling General

Suharto was born in a small village, Kemusuk, in the Godean area near Yogyakarta, during the Dutch colonial era. He grew up in humble circumstances. His Javanese Muslim parents divorced not long after his birth, and he was passed between foster parents for much of his childhood. During the Japanese occupation of Indonesia, Suharto served in Japanese-organised Indonesian security forces. Indonesia's independence struggle saw him joining the newly formed Indonesian army.

"Two days after the Japanese surrender in the Pacific, independence leaders Sukarno and Hatta declared Indonesian independence, and were appointed President and Vice-President respectively of the new Republic. Suharto disbanded his regiment in accordance with orders from the Japanese command and returned to Yogyakarta. As republican groups rose to assert Indonesian independence, Suharto joined a new unit of the newly formed Indonesian army." — Wikipedia

Idealism

Suharto rose to the rank of Major General following Indonesian independence. An attempted coup on 30 September 1965 was countered by Suharto-led troops and was blamed on the Indonesian Communist Party. The army subsequently led an "anti-communist purge", and Suharto wrested power from Indonesia's founding president, Sukarno. He was appointed acting president in 1967 and President the following year. Support for Suharto's presidency was strong throughout the 1970s and 1980s but eroded following a severe financial crisis that led to widespread unrest and his resignation in May 1998. Suharto died in 2008.

Consolidation of Power

At a ceremony, March 1968.
Having been appointed president, Suharto still needed to share power with various elements including Indonesian generals who considered Suharto as mere primus inter pares and Islamic and student groups who participated in the anti-communist purge. Suharto, aided by his "Office of Personal Assistants" (Aspri) clique of military officers from his days as commander of Diponegoro Division, particularly Ali Murtopo, began to systematically cement his hold on power by subtly sidelining potential rivals while rewarding loyalists with political position and monetary incentives.

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