The Indonesian government cannot properly be characterized as military in nature. Not all top national, provincial, regional, and district jobs are held by the military and the number of military personnel assigned to dwifungsi civilian positions at all levels of the government was probably fewer than 5,000 officers in 1992 and had declined throughout the 1980s and 1990s. In 1992, approximately half of the country's district heads (bupati) and one-third of the twenty-seven provincial or region governors were military officers. Still, under the dwifungsi doctrine, legitimizing its performance of both military and nonmilitary missions, ABRI became a dominant factor in the political life of the country and has acted as a major executive agent of government policies.
The armed forces' economic role had its beginnings early on in the National Revolution period (1945-49). That role was stepped up in 1957 when military personnel were assigned managerial or advisory positions in Dutch enterprises and agricultural estates nationalized by the government. This involvement in commercial enterprises projected the military, especially the army, into a new sphere of activity through which it acquired entrepreneurial expertise, a vast patronage, and a source of personal enrichment for many. The military's role in national economic life greatly expanded under conditions of a rapidly deteriorating economy during the Sukarno era in the 1960s.Left largely to their own devices to find support, local military units secured their needs by operating business enterprises, levying unofficial "taxes," smuggling, and other methods suggested by their own resourcefulness and available opportunities. Although not the only state institution to engage in commercial enterprise in order to generate extrabudgetary income, the armed forces certainly were the most energetic and successful. Commercial activities under the various territorial commands commonly included the use of military trucks to transport passengers and freight for hire. Military-owned companies operated in the open market, much as any private company. For example, the Dharma Putra Foundation, a holding company connected with the Army Strategic Reserve Command (KOSTRAD), included a film company, an airline, and the Volkswagen assembly franchise. The armed forces also influenced the economic policies of the Suharto regime through their ties with its most important economic technocrats. Many believe the military-technocrat alliance provided one foundation of the Suharto regime. By the early 1990s, in fact, the so-called "Berkeley Mafia," continuously augmented as successive generations of bright youths sought training in the United States, had directed Indonesia's economy for more than thirty years. In late 1982, the dwifungsi principle was placed on firm legal ground when the old 1954 defense law was replaced with a new one expressly stating that ABRI is both a military and a social force. The new law, unlike its predecessor, confers formal legitimacy on the wide-ranging powers exercised by the armed forces in the name of preserving and strengthening national resilience. The government's sanction of dwifungsi recognized the need for ABRI's continued influence in the basic national infrastructure so that national development would buttress national defense.
ABRI's involvement in the national life included the assignment of both active-duty and retired military personnel to civil administrative and policy positions. Gradually, as stability came to the economic sector, military personnel withdrew from the economic policy-making area, and by 1980 all active-duty personnel had left their positions in non-defense- related economic enterprises, although they remained active in military-owned and -managed businesses. These businesses were primarily in the sectors of plantation agriculture, timber cultivation and harvest, and transportation. Retired military officers continued to run some nationalized firms and militaryowned enterprises, although they frequently hired civilian managers.Members of the military are allotted 75 unelected seats in the Parliament (DPR), in partial compensation for not being permitted to vote. The military occupies numerous key positions in the administration and holds an unelected 20 percent of the seats in provincial and district parliaments. The other 85 percent of national and 80 percent of regional parliamentary seats are filled through elections held every 5 years.
The largest and most important of the recognized political parties has been GOLKAR, a government-controlled organization of diverse functional groups. During his tenure, President Soeharto strongly influenced the selection of the leaders of GOLKAR, of which he was the senior leader. GOLKAR has eliminated the Board of Patrons through which Soeharto previously had exerted control over the party. With the assistance of the armed forces, President Habibie backed the successful candidacy of the new GOLKAR General Chairman, who is also the State Minister/State Secretary, one of the most powerful positions in the Cabinet.
GOLKAR traditionally has maintained close institutional links with the armed forces. Following Soeharto's May 1998 resignation, the armed forces stated publicly that they would no longer be involved directly in the affairs of GOLKAR or back the ruling party in future elections. Despite this statement, the armed forces played a prominent role in the victory of President Habibie's candidate for GOLKAR Chairman in July 1998 over a former minister of defense. In December 1998 Armed Forces Commander Wiranto publicly announced that the armed forces intended to remain neutral during the election.On 15 July 1997 it was reported that Maj. Gen. Yunus Yosfiah, commander of the Indonesian Armed Forces [ABRI] Staff and Command College, replaced Lt. Gen. Syarwan Hamid as chief of ABRI sociopolitical affairs. After Suharto resigned the new President, B.J. Habibie, announced his cabinet and swore them in on May 23, 1998, with Lt. Gen. Yunus Yosfiah serving as Minister of Information. The Indonesian army's most decorated soldier, Yosfiah commanded the special forces unit blamed for the deaths of five Australia-based journalists in East Timor in October 1975. In 1978 while a battalion commander in Timor he is alleged to have killed Nocolao Lobato, then leader of the East Timorese resistance movement FRETELIN.
Generally heads of ABRI sociopolitical affairs are officers with territorial, socio-political, or educational experience. Rarely if ever come from the ranks of the KOPASSUS Red Berets. Of previous heads including Bambang Triantoro, Sugiarto, Harsudiono Hartas, Haryoto P.S., Ma'ruf, Hartono, and Syarwan Hamid, not one came from the Special Forces Command. With the September 1997 appointment of Yosfiah as head of the sociopolitical affairs, the three top positions at ABRI headquarters were held by KOPASSUS Special Forces officers. ABRI Commander Gen. Feisal Tanjung, who was installed in 1993, was a KOPASSUS man, as was Lieutenant General Tarub, installed in 1997. This "domination" of the upper ranks at ABRI Headquarters has never happened in preceding periods.