Dictator of Indonesia from 1965, and president from 12 March 1967, until his resignation on 21 May 1998 after massive popular protest.
Born in 1921, he was a little-known major-general based in central Java when an attempted coup d'etat rocked the government of Indonesia's founding president Sukarno. The truth about the coup has never been revealed: it may have been partly an internal military affair; but Suharto blamed it on a communists, and when he came to power as a result of the coup, though in Sukarno's name, he launched a counter-insurgency that led to the death of about a million people suspected of communist membership or sympathy.
He was elected president in 1967 as head of the Golkar, the sole ruling party. In later years there were some superficial trappings of democracy but Suharto and Golkar continued to be the only tolerated powers. Repression and genocide increased with the full annexation of West Irian (renamed Irian Jaya, now Papua) in 1969, half of the island of New Guinea; and in 1975 with the invasion and conquest of the newly-independent East Timor, a former Portuguese colony.
The evident corruption of his family, together with economic troubles, world condemnation of Indonesia's brutal occupation of East Timor, and increasingly violent internecine conflicts between Christian and Muslim communities within Indonesia, all contributed to popular opposition, and finally in 1998 he stepped down in favour of his vice-president B.J. Habibie. Attempts to put him on trial for corruption have been stymied by his ill health.
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