Revisiting elites, transitions and founding elections : An unexpected caller from Indonesia

Research output: Journal Publications and ReviewsRGC 21 - Publication in refereed journalpeer-review

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)51-80
Journal / PublicationDemocratization
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2000
Externally publishedYes


This article assesses the usefulness of the literature on democratic transitions for analysing recent regime change in Indonesia. A first in this literature emphasized the autonomy of elite relations (whether unified or disunified) and the roles adopted by elites (for example, soft-liners, minimalists and swingmen). A second stage contextualized elite behaviours, addressing such variables as economic crisis and the intrinsic properties of different modes of transition. However, some limitations in this conceptualization are revealed by attempts to apply it in the Indonesian case. Specifically, elite relations are difficult to classify empirically and role choices remain highly ambigous. Further, the notion that economic crisis compels elites to democratize, and second the argument that transition by opposition-led 'replacement' leads to far-reaching changes and authoritarian backlash, are unsupported by Indonesian data. Two principal conclusions are reached: Indonesian democracy has good prospects for consolidating, and the literature on transitions has limited capacity to explain this benign outcome.