Defending the Constitution, But Which One? The Indonesian Military, Constitutional Change, and Political Contestation, 1945– 2020

Marcus Mietzner*

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

    1 Citation (Scopus)

    Abstract

    Indonesia’s military has habitually emphasized its loyalty to the Constitution. But as this chapter demonstrates, the generals’ support for the Constitution has been selective. At the beginning of the Republic, the military regularly ignored the principle of civilian supremacy enshrined in the initial 1945 Constitution. When that Constitution was set aside in important parts in October 1945, and when two new Constitutions were issued in quick succession in 1950, the military grew even more reluctant to endorse key constitutional guidelines. The military leadership subsequently supported Sukarno’s autocratic takeover in 1959, which restored the original 1945 Constitution—a document that the generals preferred to the Constitutions of 1950. From thereon, the military highlighted its support for the 1945 Constitution as it served as the basis for Sukarno’s and—after 1965—Suharto’s authoritarian regime. After Suharto’s fall in 1998, the military elite campaigned against wide-ranging amendments to the 1945 Constitution, at one point proposing to annul all amendments already made. The chapter shows that the military has adopted an ambiguous attitude towards the amended Constitution ever since, formally pledging support for it but frequently voicing opposition to some of its most crucial contents. Thus, the military’s expression of loyalty to the Constitution must be understood as support for a historical document that was only in force briefly in 1945 and then from 1959 to 1998—its allegiance to other active Constitutions, in place between 1945 and 1959 and after 1998, is much more circumspect.

    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationConstitutional Democracy in Indonesia
    PublisherOxford University Press
    Pages49-66
    Number of pages18
    ISBN (Electronic)9780192870681
    ISBN (Print)9780192870681
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2023

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