News / Asia

Indonesian Experience Offers Framework for Egypt

Egyptian Army soldiers remove tents of protesters from Tahrir Square in downtown Cairo, Egypt, Feb 13, 2011
Egyptian Army soldiers remove tents of protesters from Tahrir Square in downtown Cairo, Egypt, Feb 13, 2011
TEXT SIZE - +
Gary Thomas

Now that the army has taken power in Egypt, the question arises of when - or even if - they will give it up.  But another Islamic country under autocratic rule halfway around the world held its own "people power" uprising 13 years ago and emerged with a functioning democratic state.  Indonesia's experience may hold some lessons for Egypt.

After some three decades in power, an autocratic ruler of a Muslim majority nation suddenly finds himself under pressure after massive street protests.  The military forces the president, himself a former general, to resign, sparking wild jubilation in the streets.  The military still wields considerable power after the ruler steps down.

But the country is not Egypt and the ousted ruler is not Hosni Mubarak.  It is Indonesia, and the toppled president is Suharto.

Former National Security Council director for Asian affairs Karen Brooks says there are significant parallels between Egypt in 2011 and Indonesia in 1998.

"In both you saw longtime U.S. allies, Mubarak and Suharto, each supported by the U.S. for 30 some-odd years - arguably at the expense of the development of democracy and the protection of human rights - come unglued, thanks to initially exogenous factors - in Indonesia the Asian financial crisis, in Egypt the Tunisia example," said Brooks.

The military has held a significant political role in Egypt and Indonesia, although it can be argued it was more direct in Indonesia.  The Indonesian military under Suharto had a so-called "dual function" in which it played both a security and political role.  Karen Brooks, who was a significant contributor to the Clinton administration's Indonesia policy, points out that both militaries were the key players in orchestrating events.

"In both cases the military is a secular, nationalist institution which played and continues to play, particularly in Egypt at this critical juncture, a critical role in determining the trajectory of events. In both Egypt and Indonesia the military played the key role in getting their respective leaders to step down," added Brooks.  

Egypt is currently under the rule of a military-run Supreme Council of the Armed Forces.  Analysts say it is always a concern that the military in any post-revolutionary country will not relinquish power back to civilian control.  But as former CIA senior intelligence analyst Emile Nakhleh points out, they did so in Indonesia, in part because of training they received at U.S. military institutions.

"The Indonesian military, also, under Suharto - the former dictator - had many of those officers who were trained in this country," said Nakhleh.  "They realized that ultimately for Indonesia to move forward, there's got be civilian control.  And so the military was in the background, saying that they wanted to protect Indonesia, to safeguard Indonesia, regardless of the regime."

Will the military do the same in Egypt?  Analysts point out that, like their Indonesian counterparts, many Egyptian officers also received American military training.  Retired U.S. Army Col. Joseph Englehardt, who was U.S. military attache in Cairo, and knows several members of the council, believes the army wants out of the political arena as quickly as possible.

"My strong belief is that these officers took this on as a duty and a responsibility," noted Englehardt.  "They understand it's a bounded set [limited period].  And so the inclination of this group is going to be to do what they have to do and then get back to what they normally do, which is running the military."

Egypt's military council has said it will temporarily administer the country for six months or until parliamentary and presidential elections.

Former CIA officer Emile Nakhleh says the first, and most significant step, for the ruling military to take would be lifting the state of emergency.

"When will they remove the state of emergency?  They have dissolved the parliament, which is a right step forward.  They dissolved the constitution.  They kept the present government as a caretaker government for six months.  But I think the key is dissolving or removing the state of emergency.  To me, this will be a major litmus test," noted Nakhleh.

The state of emergency in Egypt was declared by Mubarak when he assumed office as president after Anwar Sadat's assassination in October 1981.

You May Like

Multimedia Anti-Keystone XL Protests Continue

Demonstrators are worried about pipeline's effect on climate change, their traditional way of life, health and safety More

Thailand's Political Power Struggle Continues

Court gave Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra until May 2 to prepare her defense over abuse of power charges but uncertainty remains over election timing More

Malaysia Plane Search Tests Limits of Ocean Mapping Technology

Expert tells VOA existing equipment’s maximum operating depth is around 6 kilometers as operation continues on ocean bed for any trace of MH370 More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Messagei
X
Penelope Poulou
April 22, 2014 5:53 PM
Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Message

Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pro-Russian Separatists Plan 'Federalization Referendum' in Eastern Ukraine

Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine say they plan to move forward next month with a referendum vote for greater autonomy, despite the Geneva agreement reached with Russia, the U.S. and Ukraine to end the political conflict. VOA's Brian Padden reports from the city of Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video International Students Learn Film Production in World's Movie Capital

Hollywood - which is part of Los Angeles - is the movie capital of the world, and many aspiring filmmakers go there in hopes of breaking into the movie business. Mike O'Sullivan reports that regional universities are also a magnet for students who hope to become producers or directors.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid