The widespread corruption of the bureaucratic apparatus, the predominant weight of the army on both political and economic life, the ethnic-religious contrasts existing in many areas of the country, remained the main obstacles for the consolidation of the democratization process at the turn of the century., although laboriously initiated by the ruling elites after the fall of the authoritarian regime of the President of the Republic A. Suharto (1998). Neither the president ad interim BJ Habibie (1998-99), nor his successor A. Wahid, elected in October 1999, in fact, they managed to put an end to patronage practices by now consolidated and deeply branched in all the ganglia of the administrative structure, much less to put a stop to the interference of the armed forces, used to consider the use of violence entirely legitimate and whose reprisals, especially in the territories where independence groups were active, continued to draw the attention of the international community for the brutality with which they were carried out.
During 2000 Wahid tried to promote a policy of national reconciliation, but was forced to face the intensified action of the secessionist guerrillas in Aceh (region in the northern part of the island of Sumatra) and the worsening of the situation in the Moluccas, where they exploded again. ethnic and religious violence. The difficulty in managing these situations, and the persistence of a serious economic crisis, weakened the position of Wahid, who was also accused, at the beginning of 2001, of financial offenses by the opposition.
In July 2001, also following the protests of civil society and the mass mobilization against him, Wahid was finally forced to resign, and was replaced by Ms. DP Megawati Setiawati Sukarnoputri (commonly called Megawati), former vice president and leader of the Partai Demokrasi Indonesia – Perjuangan (PDI-P, Indonesian Democratic Party – Struggle, grouping of moderate and Christian nationalists). Megawati placed among the administration’s priorities the strengthening of democratic institutions, the fight against corruption and the revitalization of the economy and employment, arousing great expectations. In reality, very little of the proposed program was able to be implemented, and the conditions for the maintenance of severe social imbalances and serious political instability were perpetuated. The only success that the government could boast was in fact the approval, in August 2002, of some constitutional amendments, which included, among other things, the introduction of the direct election of the president and vice-president starting from the consultations of the 2004, the abolition of all seats reserved for members of the armed forces, the creation of a new elective chamber, the Chamber of Representatives of the Regions, composed of 128 members, which together with the already existing Chamber of Representatives would have formed the Consultative Assembly of the people, endowed with legislative powers. Although formally relevant, these changes did not affect the predominant role of the military, the only real holders of control of entire areas of the country, and little or nothing changed in terms of the morality of public life and in the living conditions of the majority of the population.
The poor social and economic incisiveness of the government caused a growing mistrust of Megawati, whose popularity was also affected by the ambivalent position taken towards domestic and international terrorism. The support offered to the United States after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001,and on the occasion of the military operations against Afghānistān, it generated strong internal tensions and a growing discontent among the Islamic parties allied to the government, opposed to forging too strong ties with the West. Despite pressure from Washington, on which a large part of international aid depended, Megawati avoided taking an intransigent line towards radical groups, which thus continued to have a certain freedom of action. In October 2002, a terrorist attack in Bali, attributed to a regional terrorist organization (but with strong ties to the international groups Jemaah Islamijah and al-Qā̔ida), killed 202 people, mostly tourists, and over 300. The government reacted by tightening security measures and enacting special anti-terrorism legislation, which quickly led to numerous arrests. The attacks, however, continued throughout 2003 and again in 2004 – the year in which the Australian embassy in Jakarta was also hit (Sept.) – while anti-Western protest continued to grow, especially after the Anglo attack. US to Irāq (March 2003). For Indonesia 2005, please check ehealthfacts.org.
The resurgence of clashes between the army and independence movements in Aceh and Irian Jaya (the western part of New Guinea) contributed to further concern for the government. Megawati initially sought the path of dialogue, and in dec. 2002 an agreement was reached with the Gerakan Aceh Merdeka (GAM, Movement for Free Aceh), to put an end to a conflict that began in 1976 and cost the lives of over 12,000 people. Among other things, the agreement provided for the establishment of an international commission to supervise the effective demilitarization of the area, and an extended regional autonomy that would allow the local government to retain the 70% of income derived from oil and gas present in the area. Boycotted by the armed forces, the agreement went into crisis within a few months: the breakdown of negotiations, which took place in April 2003, was followed in May by the imposition of martial law and the massive resumption of armed intervention.
In the following months, Megawati tried to revive government action ahead of the 2004 elections, but was unable to prevent his party from a drastic drop in support. In the political consultations, which took place in April, the PDI-P in fact increased from 154 to 109 seats; the Golkar Party ( Partai Karya Golongan , Party of functional groups linked to former dictator Suharto and the armed forces) underwent a slight decline (from 128 to 120 seats), while unexpectedly claimed the Partai Demokrat (PD, Democratic Party), founded in 2001, which conquered 57seats. In the presidential elections, in the second round (Sept.) the leader of the PD, S. Bambang Yudhoyono, won with 60.6 % of the vote. A Javanese, from the ranks of the army, responsible for public safety in the previous government, Bambang Yudhoyono had managed to establish himself with a program focused on economic growth, the restoration of internal security and the fight against terrorism. His first government was still committed to manage the serious emergency that followed the tidal wave ( tsunami ) that hit in December 2004 on the northern shores of Sumatra, which had claimed over 100,000 lives and destroyed homes and infrastructure. One of the most affected regions was Aceh, where, despite the devastation, armed clashes continued. The new president decided to resume the dialogue with the independence movement (Jan. 2005) and, having revoked the martial law (May), in August 2005 he signed an agreement with the GAM in order to put an end to the conflict and in January 2006 he presented a draft law which provided, among other things, for the autonomy of the region. The executive also promoted a reduction in the influence of the armed forces in the economic sector, and relaunched the fight against both corruption and terrorism. In October 2005, however, a new violent attack hit Bali, causing 22 deaths and over 1000 injuries, especially among foreign tourists.