Purnawirawan-based Military Reform and Party Development in Indonesia
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Purnawirawan-based Military Reform and Party Development in Indonesia

By M. Faishal Aminuddin

Purnawirawan-based Military Reform and Party Development in Indonesia

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Party development (in Indonesia) was shaped by historical factors, many of which were related to the underlying preconditions (e.g. the previous system, actors, and lingering effects of authoritarian legacy) of democratization and influenced by individuals or the institutional regime of the previous period. Ishiyama and Kennedy’s (2001) [1] study of party development in the former Soviet Union notes that the major obstacle in the development process was the legacy of totalitarianism. Party development contains a unique blend of extra-parliamentary movements and elite-focused elements. The elite constellation could explain the model and form of party development, including the various problems that exist therein. Western democracies have produced a model of party development based on a reactive dialectic that involves interaction between parties and their roots in social, economic, and political spheres (Katz and Mair 1995) [2]. By contrast, in democratization outside the Western tradition, party development  is based on the retroactive dynamics of the legacy of authoritarianism.

Indonesian democratization (1998–2004) encouraged purnawirawan (retired military officers) to create new models of organization that combined patterns of militarist leadership and civilian politicians’ institutionalization of party constituencies.  The respective constituency bases included not only military and military family members but also those from different religious and professional backgrounds. Military leadership patterns were also reflected in these party organizations, with purnawirawan holding strategic leadership positions and varying degrees of authority to control the direction of party policy. Purnawirawan-controlled parties are not only surviving, they are thriving due to having national coverage, constituencies that extend beyond a particular base, and the authority to engage in extensive party institutionalization.

There are two important historical factors that need to be taken into account when explaining the role of purnawirawan in political parties and party development more generally: 

(i) the reform of the military as an institution and 

(ii) reforms conducted within the military. 

These factors affected the distribution and polarisation of purnawirawan in political parties. Military reform was one of the mandates of the 1998 Reformasi movement. Although arguments regarding the implementation of this reform were varied, they reached similar conclusions – for example, the military doctrine of dual function (dwifungsi) did not change substantially between 1998 and 2004 (Honna 2003) [3]. However, some other scholars consider the internal military reforms to have been quite significant (Crouch 2010 [4]; Mietzner 2006 [5]).

There are two major types of military reform that I wish to emphasize here. The first is politically led military reform, which is guided by presidential decisions reached in agreement with Parliament. There were three presidential regimes during the democratic transition period, all of which experienced different levels of progress and achievements in relation to their reforms. The second is militarily led military reform, guided by the armed forces commander-in-chief. Both types of reform produced fairly concrete results and three crucial achievements: 

(a) the withdrawal of military support for Golkar in 1998,

(b) the withdrawal of military representatives, military factions, and police factions from Parliament, and

(c) the institutionalization of reform within the military through fundamental changes to military praetorian doctrine and the establishment of a professional military.

During the transition period (1998–2004), three presidential regimes made specific contributions to military reforms with their policies. Between 1998 and 1999 Habibie’s government reduced military power in Parliament and the civilian bureaucracy. For instance, in 1998 there were 75 high-ranking officers with privileged seats in the House of Representatives (Dewan Perwakilan Rakyat, DPR), but this number was reduced to 38 in 1999. Moreover, Law No. 3/1999 on the Composition and Positions of the People’s Assembly (Majelis Permusyawaratan Rakyat, MPR), the DPR, and the Regional Representative Bodies (Dewan Perwakilan Rakyat Daerah, DPRD) reduced the number of military seats in the DPR (Honna 2003: 165) [3]. At the same time, MPR seats were also cut from 1,000 to 700 (500 DPR members, 135 functional group members, and 65 regional representatives) (Ufen 2002: 514) [6]. 

In 2004 the armed forces headquarters accepted the political decision to withdraw all 1,047 of their members from the parliaments at different levels. The removed members had the option of returning to active military duty or resigning from the military. Not all chose to join a political party, as most of the parties only accommodated middle-ranked and senior officers. The process of withdrawal was controlled directly by military headquarters in Jakarta. On 28 June 2004, the commander-in-chief of the armed forces issued regulation STR/1064/2004, which ended the assignment of active military personnel to the national and local parliaments.

The military’s involvement in politics has officially been over since the Law on the TNI was passed in 2004. The military no longer has the ability to influence the formulation of policies or legislative processes in Parliament. Since the introduction of this legislation, military personnel have been prohibited from becoming members of a political party, being active in political contests or business activities, and being elected to the legislative or executive branches (Law 34/2004). Furthermore, initial reforms by the military establishment emphasized neutrality in local elections by banning TNI members from being nominated to participate in these elections. In fact, according to regulation STR/222/2005, the military is not allowed to participate, facilitate, or use military resources to support a campaign or to provide any assistance to an ex-military candidate.

The military reforms implemented between 1998 and 2004 contained important changes that enforced military neutrality in politics. External reforms tended to push military personnel to leave politics, while internal reforms showed the institutionalization of neutrality in military organizations. Armed forces were no longer able to support purnawirawan, who had previously held strategic positions in the military and were still concerned with maintaining their influence on politics. 

Furthermore, as an institution, party politics was not well established at the bottom level of party management. In terms of quality, political parties in Indonesia spend more time considering unresolved internal problems, the poor track record of parliamentary members, and the high rate of corruption than looking at ways to better develop their parties (Tomsa 2010) [7]. Tan (2002) [8] discusses the impact of low party performance, noting that during the post-Suharto regime, antipathy towards political parties was commonplace due to widespread corruption. The impact of military reforms and the lack of accountability of political parties can be seen as an additional factor that caused purnawirawan to remain engaged in party politics.

About the Author:

M. Faishal Aminuddin is a Ph.D. candidate at the Institute of Political Science, Heidelberg University, Germany. He has been a lecturer in the Department of Political Science at the University of Brawijaya since 2008. His current research focuses on political parties and electoral systems in emerging democracies.

Cite this Article:

Aminuddin, M Faishal (2017), The Purnawirawan and Party Development in post-authoritarian Indonesia, 1998–2014, in: Journal of Current Southeast Asian Affairs, 36, 2, 7–10.

Publication Details:  

This article is an excerpt taken from a research article, titled - "The Purnawirawan and Party Development in post-authoritarian Indonesia, 1998–2014", published by GIGA German Institute of Global and Area Studies, Institute of Asian Studies and Hamburg University Press. The Journal of Current Southeast Asian Affairs is an Open Access publication, published under Creative Commons - Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works.


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[2] Katz, Richard S., and Peter Mair (1995), Changing Models of Party Organization and Party Democracy: The Emergence of the Cartel Party, in: Party Politics, 1, 1, 5–28. 

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[4] Crouch, Harold A. (2007), The Army and Politics in Indonesia, Singapore: Equinox Publishing

[5] Mietzner, M. (2006), The Politics of Military Reform in Post-Suharto Indonesia: Elite Conflict, Nationalism, and Institutional Resistance, Policy Studies, 23, Washington, DC: East-West Center. 

[6] Ufen, Andreas (2002), Herrschaftsfiguration und Demokratisierung in Indonesien (1965-2000), Hamburg: IFA.

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