Indonesia was governed by Soeharto for 32 years (1966-1998), with six elections, all held under conditions that guaranteed his hold on power (Christopher J. Dagg, 2007). Back in Soeharto era, Presidents were elected by the People’s Consultative Assembly (MPR). MPR is one of the higher institutions in Indonesia. Under the original 1945 Constitution, the MPR was empowered to elect the President, and also drew up the government’s ﬁve-year mandate.
May 1998 riot in Indonesia.
Rioters were furious at Soeharto’s decision to increase the price of gasoline and electricity. Cars and stores were attacked and burnt.
According to Dwight Y. King (2000), Professor in Department of Political Science of Northern Illinois University, Transparency International's corruption index recently ranked Indonesia, under the leadership of Soeharto, the third most corrupt country in the world behind Cameroon and Nigeria. How was this possible? Why did it take so many years for Indonesian people to discover this? How could Soeharto be a president for 32 years? Lastly, do all Indonesian citizens care about their president’s background? After Soeharto resigned, a reformation was planned to change the structure of government and how the leaders were elected to ensure that power could not again be concentrated in the hands of a few. Through this paper, I want to persuade Indonesian citizens that democratic election can lead to accountability, good governance and social development because the right to vote gives the people of Indonesia the power to elect which figure to lead them to a better future.
Initially, Soeharto dictatorship brought about improvements in the country’s political conditions and economy. Under his New Order, communist party and its mass, as well as Kora Dwi Cabinet were demolished. Also, the prices for basic needs were decreased. However, governance in the new order and dictators tended to be racist. Indonesian citizens of Chinese descent were often marginalized. They were not allowed to hold Chinese organizations because they support communism. Moreover, ethnic Chinese were also prohibited from occupying a position in the government. Another weakness of Soeharto leadership was student movements were restrained; they were prohibited from forming political organizations, and campuses were encouraged to only allow student organizations that focused on arts and