There is not one, but a number of combined factors explaining why an Indonesian strongman such as Suharto could cling onto power. The way in which he came into office and maintained power in Indonesia deserves a close analysis occupying more than a few pages. This chapter focuses on the fact that Indonesia was subjected to a style of leadership that was ‘more stick than carrot’, at the expense of the economy and civil society. Under Suharto’s repressive leadership, the country went through some impressive development and was engaged in the process of globalisation in advance of the rest of the nations in the region, especially before Cambodia and Lao. Suharto came into power through a coup and this brutal manoeuvre to secure tenure reflects his prowess in seizing power. Maintaining durability of office, Suharto resorted to violent means more often than not; however, he held onto office not only by oppressing his challengers or opponents, but also by maintaining some economic progress to placate the populace and to co-opt dissidents, including the disgruntled grassroots (peasant) communities. While the rent-seeking economy was one of the core strategies to ensure his continuing tenure in power, the advancement of the Indonesian economy appeared, in a relative sense, to benefit the prominent elites of the regime, while poor and marginalised communities, including land and natural resource dependents, were left lagging behind. Thus, this chapter describes how the mobilisation and protests of such communities, which came about in response to Suharto’s tactics, experienced outcomes that were also shaped by his power game—a game of balance.
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The contents of this case are mostly extracted from Aditjondro (2002). Where materials are drawn from other written texts, they are referenced.
A copy of Jakarta Post on this headline can be retrieved from https://jawawa.id/newsitem/sulawesi-tribe-opposes-lake-lindu-dam-project-1447893297 (Accessed 17 April 2020).
Jakarta Post (11 September 1994).
In 2000, government of post-Suharto resumed considering building the dam in the Lindu area but faced resistance from the communities (Sherman, 2005).
Most of the material of this case is extracted from Lucas (1992).
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Young, S. (2021). A Strongman and Dissidents in Indonesia. In: Strategies of Authoritarian Survival and Dissensus in Southeast Asia. Palgrave Series in Asia and Pacific Studies. Palgrave Macmillan, Singapore. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-981-33-6112-6_7
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