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The Struggle for power in post-Soeharto Indonesia



In July 1996, President Soeharto crossed a point of no return. Small but vocal student groups were staging daily demonstrations to demand 'reformasi' - Indonesia's byword for democratic reform. Disturbed by the unprecedented show of dissent, Soeharto cracked down. But by demonstrating that he would cling to power through force, the 74-year-old president dashed hopes for a peaceful democratic transition. The world's fourth largest nation was rolling towards a high-stakes political crisis - pitting reformers against corruptors, Islamists against nationalists, and the elite against the Indonesian people. Drawing on scores of personal interviews and extensive bi-lingual research, Reformasi relates the course of Indonesian politics from 1996 through to the end of 2001. It recounts the collapse of the financial system, the downfall of Soeharto and the relentless power struggles of an unscrupulous ruling class. It unravels the headline-grabbing corruption scandals that bankrupted the economy, while shedding light on the skullduggery behind much of the country's continuing violence and strife - including the Trisakti shootings, the May 1998 riots and the scorched-earth campaign in East Timor. A full six years after Soeharto's July 1996 crackdown, the fate of the world's largest Muslim country still hangs in the balance. Reformasi provides fresh perspectives on political Islam, the prospects for democracy and the implications of military involvement in governance and business. Above all, Reformasi demonstrates that demands for reform are strong and enduring - but so too is the legacy of Soeharto. KEVIN O'ROURKE graduated from Harvard University before moving to Jakarta, where he has worked for eight years as an investment banker, consultant and political risk analyst. Throughout the height of the political transition, he scrutinised events first-hand by authoring the Van Zorge Report, an independent bi-weekly journal on politics and economics.