Review: The Indonesian Presidency
Published: Mar 22, 2008

Angus McIntyre

Oxford, Rowman and Littlefield Publishers, 2005
ISBN 0742538265 A$45.50

The highly personal nature of Indonesia’s two longest tenured presidencies, Sukarno (1949-66) and Suharto (1966-1998), is widely recognised in the study of its political history. Indeed, political or ‘presidential’ biography has a strong presence within the field of Indonesian studies.

Angus McIntyre’s book, The Indonesian Presidency: The Shift from Personal towards Constitutional Rule, brings this way of understanding the political through the personal lives of its leaders together with sharp historical and more conventional political analysis. The result is a unique and persuasive political history of Indonesia since independence; its major institutions - with emphasis on the 1945 Constitution -, and of course its presidents.

McIntyre sets the book within the frame of two critical turning points in Indonesian political history. The period 1957-59 when Sukarno set about dismantling constitutional democracy, and the end of the New Order regime in 1998. These mark the periods he terms personality and constitutional rule.

In the first two sections of the book, McIntyre peers into the ‘inner’ lives of both Sukarno and Suharto. He examines the impact of their personalities on how they led and on the nature of their autocratic Guided Democracy and New Order regimes respectively.

The second half of the book provides a study of the shift to constitutional rule in Indonesia through a political biography of Sukarno’s daughter and fifth Indonesian President Megawati (2000-2004). This tells the story of the complex and often rocky road towards constitutional rule and the role of president in Indonesia today.

McIntyre paints a picture of a political system still in flux. The success of the 2004 presidential elections in which Megawati was defeated by Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono gives hope. However he remains cautious, arguing that within a presidential democracy opportunity exists for ego to play a critical role in shaping the governing of the nation once again.     ii

Reviewed by Jemma Purdey (jepurdey@hotmail.com )


Inside Indonesia 91: Jan-Mar 2008