2nd President of Indonesia (1967—1998)

Suharto (February 20, 1921 - January 27, 2008[1]) was an Indonesian military and political leader. He served as the country's president for over three decades, from 1967 to 1998. While in power, Suharto's regime was characterized by authoritarianism, human rights abuses, and widespread corruption. His rule was marked by suppression of political dissent, censorship of the media, and the violent suppression of opposition groups. Suharto's government was accused of widespread corruption, with his family and cronies amassing vast wealth at the expense of the Indonesian people. His presidency ended in 1998 amid mass protests and economic instability, leading to his resignation.

2nd President of Indonesia
In office
March 12, 1967 – May 21, 1998
Vice PresidentSri Sultan Hamengkubuwono IX (1973)
Adam Malik (1978)
Umar Wirahadikusumah (1983)
Sudharmono (1988)
Try Sutrisno (1993)
Bacharuddin Jusuf Habibie (1998)
Preceded bySukarno
Succeeded byBacharuddin Jusuf Habibie
Personal details
Born(1921-02-20)February 20, 1921
Kemusuk, Yogyakarta, Indonesia
DiedJanuary 27, 2008(2008-01-27) (aged 86)
Jakarta, Indonesia
Cause of deathCongestive heart failure caused by sepsis
Political partyGolongan Karya
Height167 cm (5 ft 6 in)
Spouse(s)Siti Hartinah
ChildrenSiti Hardiyanti Rukmana
Hutomo Mandala Putra
OccupationMilitary, Politician

Political power


In the early morning of October 1, 1965, a group of soldiers claiming to be supported by the Indonesian Communist Party killed six generals in the army and one assistant because they thought he was a seventh. Many friends and supporters of Soeharto claimed they were members of the communist party itself. The people of Indonesia then started killing anybody they thought was communist with Soeharto's tacit approvement. Estimates range around half a million. Suharto then seized power from his predecessor, the first president of Indonesia Sukarno. For this, he used some force, but also took some political maneuvers. At the time, there was instability and unrest inside and outside of Indonesia. This helped him come to power. He took three decades to change the regime to work along militarist lines, with a strong central government. His movement was known as "Orde Baru". As he took an anti-communist position which he could defend, several Western governments supported him both in economic and political matters. This was during an era that is known as Cold War. His rule, however, led to political purges and the deaths of about half a million of suspected Indonesian communists; many of them Chinese-Indonesians.[2] He also made some laws against communist parties and ethnic Chinese.[3]

His New Order administration's authoritarian and increasingly corrupt practices led to much discontent in the 1990s. Soeharto's almost unquestioned authority over Indonesian affairs slipped dramatically when the Asian financial crisis lowered Indonesians' standard of living. People inside the military and other institutions no longer supported him. There were some problems inside the country during the early 1990s. Soeharto became more and more isolated, in a political way. After mass demonstrations in 1998, Soeharto was forced to resign. Soeharto had been the face of Indonesia for over 30 years. After retiring, he lived in seclusion. There were people who wanted to try him for genocide. This failed however, because he had a very bad health. His legacy remains hotly debated and contested both in Indonesia and abroad.

Like many Javanese, Soeharto has only one name. In contexts where his religion is being discussed he is sometimes called Haji or el-Haj Mohammed Suharto, but this Islamic title is not part of his formal name or generally used. The spelling "Suharto" has been official in Indonesia since 1947 but the older spelling Soeharto is still frequently used.

Soeharto was admitted to hospital on January 4; on 23 January, Soeharto's health worsened further, as a sepsis infection spread through his body. His family consented to the removal of life support machines if his condition did not improve and he died on 27 January at 1:09 pm. He died at Pertamina Hospital in Jakarta, Indonesia of congestive heart failure.[4] He was taken off life support.[5] He was buried at a family mausoleum near Solo town.

Soekarno, Soeharto and Sarwo Edhie Wibowo/Slaughter of Indonesian "Communists"


The balance of power was shifted in favour of anti-Communists in December 1965, when personnel from both the Army Para-commando Regiment and 5th Brawijaya Military Region units arrived in Bali after having carried out killings in Java. Led by Suharto's principal troubleshooter, Sarwo Edhie Wibowo who with Javanese military commanders permitted Balinese squads (led by Anwar Congo, Adi Zulkadry, Safit Pardede) to kill until reined in. [6] In contrast to Central Java where the Army encouraged people to kill the "Gestapu", Bali's eagerness to kill was so tremendous and spontaneous that, having provided logistic support initially, the Army eventually had to step in to prevent chaos.[7] Sukarno's choice of Bali's provincial governor, Suteja, was recalled from office and accused of preparing a communist uprising, and his relatives were tracked down and killed.[8] A series of killings similar to those in Central and East Java were led by black-shirted PNI youth. For several months, militia death squads went through villages capturing suspects and taking them away.[source?] Hundreds of houses belonging to communists and their relatives were burnt down within one week of the reprisal crusade, with occupants being butchered as they ran from their homes. An early estimate suggested that 50,000 people, including women and children, were killed in this operation alone. The population of several Balinese villages were halved in the last months of 1965.[9] All the Chinese shops in the towns of Singaraja and Denpasar were destroyed and many of their owners who were alleged to have financially supported the "Gestapu" killed.[9] Between December 1965 and early 1966, an estimated 80,000 Balinese were killed, roughly 5% of the island's population at the time, and proportionally more than anywhere else in Indonesia.[10] Most of the people killed had little to do with Communist Party or other allegations thrown at them.

Soekarno continued to command loyalty from large sections of the armed forces as well as the general population, and Soeharto was careful not to be seen to be seizing power in his own coup. For eighteen months following the quashing of the 30 September Movement, there was a complicated process of political manoeuvres against Soekarno, including student agitation, stacking of parliament, media propaganda and military threats.[11]

In January 1966, university students under the banner of KAMI, begin demonstrations against the Soekarno government voicing demands for the disbandment of PKI and control of hyperinflation. The students received support and protection from the army. Street fights broke out between the students and pro-Sukarno loyalists with the pro-Soeharto students prevailing due to army protection.[12]

In February 1966, Soekarno promoted Suharto to lieutenant-general (and to full general in July 1966).[13] The killing of a student demonstrator and Soekarno's order for the disbandment of KAMI in February 1966 further galvanised public opinion against the president. On 11 March 1966, the appearance of unidentified troops around Merdeka Palace during a cabinet meeting (which Soeharto had not attended) forced Soekarno to flee to Bogor Palace (60 km away) by helicopter. Three pro-Soeharto generals, Major-General Basuki Rahmat, Brigadier-General M Jusuf, and Brigadier-General Amirmachmud went to Bogor to meet Soekarno. There, they persuaded and secured a presidential decree from Soekarno (see Supersemar) that gave Suharto authority to take any action necessary to maintain security.[11]

Using the Supersemar letter, Soeharto ordered the banning of PKI the following day and proceeded to purge pro-Soekarno elements from the parliament, the government and military, accusing them of being communist sympathisers. The army arrested 15 cabinet ministers and forced Soekarno to appoint a new cabinet consisting of Soeharto supporters. The army arrested pro-Soekarno and pro-communist members of the MPRS (parliament), and Soeharto replaced chiefs of the navy, air force, and the police force with his supporters, who then began an extensive purge within each service.[13]

In June 1966, the now-purged parliament passed 24 resolutions including the banning of Marxism–Leninism, ratifying the Supersemar, and stripping Soekarno of his title of President for Life. Against the wishes of Soekarno, the government ended the Konfrontasi with Malaysia and rejoined the United Nations[14] (Soekarno had removed Indonesia from the UN in the previous year).[15] Soeharto did not seek Soekarno's outright removal at this MPRS session due to the remaining support for the president among some elements of the armed forces.[16]

By January 1967, Soeharto felt confident that he had removed all significant support for Soekarno within the armed forces, and the MPRS decided to hold another session to impeach Soekarno. On 22 February 1967, Soekarno announced he would resign from the presidency, and on 12 March, the MPRS session stripped him of his remaining power and named Soeharto acting president.[17] Soekarno was placed under house arrest in Bogor Palace, little more was heard from him, and he died in near seclusion in June 1970.


  1. "Indonesia ex-leader Suharto dies". 27 January 2008.
  2. Robert Cribb (2002). "Unresolved Problems in the Indonesian Killings of 1965–1966". Asian Survey. 42 (4): 550–563. doi:10.1525/as.2002.42.4.550. JSTOR 10.1525/as.2002.42.4.550.
  3. Leo Suryadinata (1976). "Indonesian Policies toward the Chinese Minority under the New Order". Asian Survey. 16 (8): 770–787. doi:10.2307/2643578. JSTOR 2643578.
  4. Jakarta, Mark Forbes Herald Correspondent in (28 January 2008). "Strongman Soeharto dies without ever facing justice". The Sydney Morning Herald.
  5. Watson, Richard C. Paddock and Paul. "Indonesian ex-president Suharto dies". Archived from the original on 2019-05-11. Retrieved 2019-02-11.
  6. Taylor (2003), p. 359; Vickers (2005), p. 158; Vittachi (1967), p. 143
  7. Friend (2003), p. 113.
  8. Taylor (2003), p. 358; Robinson (1995), pp. 299–302; Vittachi (1967), p. 143
  9. 9.0 9.1 Vittachi (1967), p. 143
  10. Friend (2003), p. 111; Taylor (2003), p. 358; Vickers (2005), p. 159; Robinson (1995), p. ch. 11.
  11. 11.0 11.1 Vickers (2005), page 160
  12. Ricklefs (1991), pages 288 - 290
  13. 13.0 13.1 Elson 2001, pp. 130–135
  14. Hughes 2002, pp. 267–270
  15. Hughes 2002, p. 107
  16. Schwarz (1992), p.25
  17. McDonald, Hamish (1980). Suharto's Indonesia. Fontana Books. pp. 60. ISBN 0-00-635721-0.

Other websites

Military offices
Preceded by
Pranoto Reksosamudro
Indonesian Army Chief of Staff
1965 - 1967
Succeeded by
Maraden Panggabean
Position abolished by Sukarno after 17 October 1952 incident
Title last held by
T.B. Simatupang
As Chief of Staff of the Battle Forces
Commander-in-Chief of the Indonesian Armed Forces
1969 - 1973
Political offices
Preceded by
President of Indonesia
12 March 1967 - 21 May 1998
Succeeded by
B. J. Habibie
Party political offices
New office Chairman of Central Committee of Golkar
1983 - 1998
Succeeded by
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
Dobrica Ćosić
Secretary General of Non-Aligned Movement
1992 - 1995
Succeeded by
Ernesto Samper Pizano
New office Chairperson of APEC
Succeeded by
Tomiichi Murayama