The Political Influence of the Military Before and After Democratic Transition: Experiences from Indonesia - An Assessment on Myanmar
Historically, the Indonesian National Armed Forces (TNI) and Myanmar’s Armed Forces (Tatmadaw) held tremendous levels of domestic political influence. Following independence in the 1940s, both countries experienced a short and unstable democratic period. Largely due to the weakness of civilian institutions, and the special place of the TNI and the Tatmadaw in society, both militaries became the most dominant political actors in their respective countries. In 1998, President Suharto’s government fell, which instigated a period of political reform whereby the TNI removed itself from the political realm. It would seem as if democratisation has seen the TNI lose significant political clout. However, is it this simple? Does democratisation mean a total loss of political influence for the military? This paper seeks to understand to what extent the TNI lost political influence in the democratic era and whether similar developments are likely for Myanmar’s Tatmadaw. To answer this question, this paper will review literature on influence, democracy and civilmilitary relations in order to produce a thematic framework of indicators that can be used for further analysis on the TNI and the Tatmadaw. Once a framework has been laid, this paper will investigate the Indonesian experience, focusing on pre-democracy (1945-1998), before shifting to see how influential the TNI is in the democratic era (1998-2015). The Tatmadaw’s political influence will then be examined in the junta period (1948-2015). Once the Tatmadaw current state is understood, this paper will provide informed judgements on the likely influence of the Tatmadaw in a future democratic Myanmar. This paper found that in the post-Suharto era, the TNI still retains political influence as a result of its strong standing in Indonesian society, involvement in off-budget income generation, and a strong internal security role, as well as weak civilian institutions. Although the TNI no longer have a dominant role in Indonesia politics, they certain hold a level of political influence in Jakarta. With Myanmar heading toward democratisation, after fifty years of junta rule, will the Tatmadaw follow a similar trajectory? This paper is timely. November 8, 2015 will see democratic elections take place in Myanmar. The most popular political party, the National League for Democracy, led by democratic icon Aung San Suu Kyi, is likely to do very well in the election. At the same time, Myanmar’s 2008 Constitution indirectly bans her from becoming president, provides the Tatmadaw with 25 percent of the seats in parliament and gives the military a veto option, even in the supposedly democratic era.