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Tuesday, June 8, 1999 Published at 15:38 GMT 16:38 UK

Indonesia's 'power-sharing' military

Indonesia's military: No longer holding back democracy

Indonesia's democratic general election on Monday marked the first time since the 1960s that the military has not simply rubber-stamped the result for the ruling party, Golkar.

Indonesia Flashpoints
But the armed forces still gain an automatic 38 of the new parliament's 500 seats, suggesting that the military's "dual function" - as protector of the nation and an established force in civil politics - is not yet at an end.

Speaking to the BBC's World Today, armed forces spokesman Brigadier General Sudrajat said the military wants to be reformed so it can share power with democratically-elected representatives.

Brigadier General Sudrajat: "The armed forces have defined a new paradigm"
Indonesian broadcaster and political commentator Wimar Witoelar told the same programme the armed forces simply have no choice but to give in to the popular wave of support for democracy.

The ousting of the authoritarian former President Suharto last year led to significant pressure on the military to reduce its role in politics.

General Sudrajat said the armed forces had responded appropriately.

'We made mistakes'

He denied that the military would simply step in if it did not like the decisions of Indonesia's new democratic government.

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"We still care to be involved in politics, because we would like also to share in the process of policy and decision-making," he said - although not on a day-to-day basis.

The general said reform could help overcome mistrust of a military that has been implicated in atrocities and brutality in areas like East Timor and Aceh.

"It's very difficult, because everybody is part of the past. We admit we made mistakes," he said.

Brigadier General Sudrajat: "The armed forces have defined a new paradigm"
He pointed to the redefinition of the police, who are now "structurally split from the armed forces".

Efforts have been made to address the sheer scale of military involvement in nearly every aspect of Indonesian life.

For example, almost half of all provincial governors and 40% of district heads are serving officers.

'Not financially viable'

Under new rules, military personnel in civilian posts will have to choose between retirement, switching to the civil service or returning to active duty.

[ image:  ]
Mr Witoelar said he believed the military was sincere about reform "out of necessity".

He said the armed forces no longer had the resources to be independent.

"Even for weapons you need bullets. To be financially viable they have to be in line with the political trend of the nation," he said.

"I guess now they are watching to see which way the politics will go and align themselves with that new reality."

Hedging bets

Mr Witoelar said the armed forces would not be able to step in as they had during the rule of President Suharto and his predecessor Sukarno.

"Now they feel themselves in a political vacuum ... they cannot act against the millions of people we saw on the streets," he said.

"They are hedging their bets and not doing anything. That is why we have had such a peaceful [election] campaign."

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BBC Indonesian Service

Asia Society: Indonesia's 1999 Elections

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Battle for Indonesia's Islamic vote