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Reformasi and the Indonesian 'War on Terror': State, Military and Legislative-Executive Relations in an Emerging Democracy

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Indonesia's fledgling democracy was just three years into defining its constitutional structure when the 9/11 attacks took place in the United States. It was less affected by the acts themselves than by the 'war on terror' that they provoked. Militant Islamic groups, already active, sometimes violently, were invigorated by widespread opposition to the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. A series of violent attacks on western targets at the same time put strong international and domestic pressure on the newly established democracy to act, sometimes in ways that ran counter to its reform agenda. Indonesia's unique configuration of legislative and executive powers continues to evolve, but seems - for now - to have been relatively unaffected by these pressures. Rather, as the country increasingly recognised terrorism as a problem deserving political attention, it turned not to tighter central controls or a strengthened president but to the reinvigoration of the nation's already formidable military. At question in Indonesia is less the evolving balance of power between the executive and the legislature than their combined ability to govern.

Keywords: 'dwifungsi'; 'jihad'; 'reformarsi'; civil-military relations; democratisation; international terrorism; legislative-executive relations; political corruption

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: City College, City University of New York, USA

Publication date: June 1, 2009


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