/sooh hahr"toh/, n.born 1921, Indonesian army officer and political leader: president since 1968.Also, Soeharto.
* * *Second president of Indonesia (1967–98).Suharto initially served in the Dutch colonial army, but after the Japanese conquest (1942) he joined a Japanese-sponsored defense corps. After Japan's surrender he joined the guerrilla forces seeking independence from the Dutch. When Indonesia became independent (1950), he was a lieutenant colonel. A strong anticommunist, he crushed what was purported to be an attempted communist coup d'état in 1965 with a ruthless purge of communists and leftists throughout the country that left as many as 1,000,000 dead. He deposed the sitting president, Sukarno, and was himself appointed president in 1967. He established authoritarian rule and was repeatedly elected without opposition. In 1975 he brutally annexed the former Portuguese colony of East Timor. A severe economic downturn focused public attention on his government's corruption, and this led to massive demonstrations that prompted his resignation in 1998, after 31 years in power.SuhartoAP/Wide World Photos
* * *▪ 2009Indonesian army officer and political leaderborn June 8, 1921, Kemusu Argamulja, Java, Dutch East Indies [now Indonesia]died Jan. 27, 2008, Jakarta, Indon.pursued strongly anticommunist, pro-Western policies as president of Indonesia (1967–98); Suharto's three decades of uninterrupted rule gave his country much-needed political stability and sustained economic growth, but his authoritarian regime finally fell victim to an economic crisis and its own internal corruption. After graduating from high school and working briefly as a bank clerk, he joined the Dutch colonial army and then, after the Japanese conquest in 1942, switched to a Japanese-sponsored home defense corps. With Japan's surrender in 1945, he fought in the guerrilla forces seeking independence (1950) from the Dutch. Suharto rose steadily through the ranks of the Indonesian army, becoming a colonel (1957), a brigadier general (1960), and a major general (1962). On Sept. 30, 1965, a group of disgruntled left-wing army officers and some Indonesian Communist Party leaders tried to seize power in Jakarta. Suharto escaped assassination, led the army in crushing the coup, and directed a purge of communists and leftists in public life; his example was followed by vigilantes in a grand massacre of communists throughout the country in which hundreds of thousands lost their lives. Suharto took effective control of the government on March 12, 1966, though President Sukarno remained nominal head of state. In March 1967 the People's Consultative Assembly (the national legislature) appointed Suharto acting president, and in March 1968 it elected him president. His government-sponsored political party, Golkar, repeatedly scored landslide victories in elections to the Assembly, and that body in turn reelected Suharto unopposed to the presidency in 1973, 1978, 1983, 1988, 1993, and 1998. In 1997, however, Indonesia became caught up in a currency crisis sweeping across Southeast Asia. The value of the rupiah plummeted, the economy went into recession, inflation skyrocketed, and living standards collapsed for the poor. Antigovernment demonstrations turned into rioting in May 1998, and Suharto was forced to resign on May 21.▪ 1999Ending 32 years of autocratic rule, Suharto stepped down as president of Indonesia in 1998. His resignation came after months of student-led pro-democracy demonstrations, which grew in size as the Asian economic crisis plunged Indonesia into desperate financial straits. Equally responsible for his resignation, however, was the nation's increasing disgust with the corruption and cronyism that had characterized the Suharto regime.Suharto was born on June 8, 1921, in Kemusu Argamulja, Java, Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia). Like many Javanese, he used only his given name. After finishing high school, he joined the Dutch colonial army and graduated from its noncommissioned officers school. In 1942, when the Japanese wrested control of the colony from the Dutch, he joined the Japanese-run defense corps, where he trained to become an officer. Although he initially welcomed the occupying forces, by 1945 he was involved in the anti-Japanese rebellion. After Japan's surrender to the Allies, he fought in the guerrilla forces resisting Dutch efforts to regain control. By the time Indonesia became a republic in 1950, he had risen to the rank of lieutenant colonel. Suharto led the army in putting down an allegedly communist coup d'état attempt on Sept. 30, 1965. In the following months he directed a purge of communists and leftists, during which the army massacred more than 500,000 ethnic Chinese.Suharto took control of the Indonesian government in 1966 under an emergency powers act. He was elected president in 1968. His modernization programs brought roads, electricity, and irrigation systems to the most remote areas of the country, and his family-planning programs drastically cut Indonesia's high birthrate. Suharto ruled with an iron hand, however. In 1975-76 his government forcibly incorporated East Timor into Indonesia. In the process some 200,000 Timorese were killed, and an equal number were tortured or imprisoned.Although Suharto's modernization programs helped turn Indonesia into a regional economic and political powerhouse, serious problems were brewing by 1998. A small group of Suharto cronies had profited enormously from lucrative noncompetitive government contracts. Even more blatant was the favouritism shown to members of his own family. Four of his six children sat on the People's Consultative Assembly, Indonesia's highest legislative body, and all of them had grown wealthy through extensive business interests. Cronyism and nepotism were tolerated in relatively stable economic times, but when the Asian economic crisis hit Indonesia, riots erupted on May 12 throughout the country, resulting in the deaths of more than 500 people. Suharto strove to remain in power, but public opposition had grown too strong. Faced with the possibility of revolution and no longer able to count on the army to maintain order, he stepped down on May 21, leaving a legacy of modernization and economic growth tainted by corruption and brutality. In December he was questioned by state prosecutors about his wealth, which he maintained was earned not stolen.JOHN H. MATHEWS
* * *▪ president of Indonesiaborn June 8, 1921, Kemusu Argamulja, Java, Dutch East Indies [now Indonesia]died Jan. 27, 2008, Jakarta, Indon.army officer and political leader who was president of Indonesia from 1967 to 1998. His three decades of uninterrupted rule gave Indonesia much-needed political stability and sustained economic growth, but his authoritarian regime finally fell victim to an economic downturn and its own internal corruption.Like many Javanese, Suharto used only his given name, without a surname. The son of a minor official and trader in Yogyakarta, he aspired from his youth to a career in the military. After graduating from high school and working briefly as a bank clerk, he joined the Dutch colonial army and then, after the Japanese conquest in 1942, switched to a Japanese-sponsored home defense corps, receiving training as an officer. With Japan's surrender in 1945, he fought in the guerrilla forces seeking independence from the Dutch. By the time Indonesia became a republic in 1950, Suharto had distinguished himself as a battalion commander in central Java and achieved the rank of lieutenant colonel. Over the next 15 years he rose steadily through the ranks of the Indonesian army, becoming a colonel in 1957, a brigadier general in 1960, and a major general in 1962.In 1963 Suharto was routinely appointed to head the army strategic command, a Jakarta-based force used to respond to national emergencies. Indonesia's leader, President Sukarno, had meanwhile cultivated close ties with the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI) and with China, but the army had remained strongly anticommunist. On September 30, 1965, a group of disgruntled left-wing army officers and some PKI leaders tried to seize power in Jakarta, killing six of the army's seven senior generals. Suharto was one of the highest-ranking officers to escape assassination, and, as head of the strategic command, he led the army in crushing the coup within a few days. Sukarno was suspected of complicity in the coup, and power now began to shift to the army. In the following months, Suharto directed a purge of communists and leftists in public life, and his example was followed in exaggerated form by vigilantes in a grand massacre of communists throughout the country in which hundreds of thousands lost their lives.Suharto, by now army chief of staff, took effective control of the Indonesian government on March 12, 1966, though Sukarno remained nominal president for another year. Suharto banned the PKI and began formulating new policies to stabilize the country's economy and political life, which had approached the brink of chaos in the last years of Sukarno's rule. In March 1967 the People's Consultative Assembly (the national legislature) appointed Suharto acting president, and in March 1968 it elected him to a five-year term as president.As president, Suharto instituted a policy he called the New Order, relying on the help of American-educated economists to reinvigorate the Indonesian economy. Western investment and foreign aid were encouraged, and Indonesia's domestic oil production was greatly expanded, with the resulting revenues used to fund infrastructure and development projects. By 1972 Suharto had succeeded in restoring steady economic growth while also reducing the annual rate of inflation from a high of 630 percent in 1966 to less than 9 percent. In foreign affairs, he pursued an anticommunist, pro-Western stance. Indonesia rejoined the United Nations (from which Sukarno had withdrawn it), and in 1967 it became a founding member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). In 1976 Indonesia forcibly annexed the Portuguese colony of East Timor despite widespread international disapproval.Though he was careful to follow constitutional forms, Suharto's government was basically an authoritarian regime based on the power of the military, which insinuated itself deeply into every branch of the government and the economy. As head of the armed forces and the government, Suharto maintained complete control of the country's political life. His government-sponsored political party, Golkar, repeatedly scored landslide victories in elections to the People's Consultative Assembly, and that body in turn reelected Suharto unopposed to the presidency in 1973, 1978, 1983, 1988, 1993, and 1998. Civil liberties were restricted, and little dissent was tolerated.During Suharto's three decades in power, Indonesia's economy grew an average of 7 percent annually, and living standards rose substantially for the bulk of the population. Education and mass literacy programs were used to propagate the national language, Bahasa Indonesia, and to unify the country's disparate ethnic groups and scattered islands. The government also initiated one of Asia's most successful family-planning programs in order to slow down the growth of Indonesia's large population. These successes were increasingly marred, however, by the inequitable distribution of the nation's expanding wealth, with relatively small urban elites and military circles receiving a disproportionately large share of the benefits of modernization and development. Suharto allowed his friends and his six children to assume control of key sectors of the economy and amass enormous fortunes by means of monopolies and lucrative trade arrangements.By the 1990s the unrestrained corruption and favoritism of his regime had begun to alienate even the middle class and business circles, but continuing high rates of economic growth and the government's tight political controls insulated Suharto from any genuine opposition. In 1997, however, Indonesia became caught up in a currency crisis sweeping across Southeast Asia. The value of the Indonesian national currency, the rupiah, plummeted, and the resulting financial crisis exposed deep flaws in the national economy. Suharto resisted demands for structural reforms even while the economy went into recession, inflation skyrocketed, and living standards collapsed for the poor. Antigovernment demonstrations turned into rioting in Jakarta and other cities in May 1998, and Suharto, having lost the support of the military, was forced to resign the presidency on May 21. He was succeeded in office by the vice president, B.J. Habibie.
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