184. Memorandum From the Assistant Secretary of State for Far Eastern Affairs (Robertson) to Acting Secretary of State Herter0


  • Indonesian Guided Democracy—1959

In a speech February 20 President Sukarno officially announced a unanimous Cabinet decision on the implementation of “Guided Democracy” within the framework of a return to the Constitution of 1945.1 The decision supported by the President, the National Council and the military is as follows:

Prior to his trip abroad scheduled for April, Sukarno, on behalf of the Government, will go before the Constituent Assembly and recommend that the Assembly adopt the Indonesian Constitution of 1945 as the country’s permanent Constitution. If the Assembly accepts the recommendation (as is expected), the President, Cabinet Ministers and Constituent Assembly members will sign a “Bandung Charter” prior to Independence Day, August 17, declaring the Constitution of 1945 as Indonesia’s Constitution.
Before his trip in April, Sukarno and the Cabinet will ask Parliament for action on two bills: (a) one bill calling for the simplification of the political party system; (b) the second calling for amending the general election law of 1953 to permit the inclusion of functional groups in Parliament. These bills will be submitted to the existing Parliament [Page 353] which shall continue in office until general elections are held and a new Parliament, including functional group representatives, is formed.
With the confirmation of the Constitution of 1945, the Djuanda Cabinet will return its mandate to the President, who shall appoint new Cabinet ministers. (Some sources report that Djuanda would continue in his position of Prime Minister or in a comparable role after the return of his mandate.)
With the formation of the new Parliament, bills will be submitted concerning (a) the forming of a Supreme Consultative Council, which will also include representatives of functional groups; (b) the forming of a People’s Consultative Council, which will consist of members of Parliament, regional representatives and representatives of functional groups.
Election of a President and Vice President will be held according to the Constitution of 1945—i.e., by a majority vote of the People’s Consultative Council.


The 1945 Constitution, which entered into effect immediately after Indonesia’s declaration of independence and continued until 1949, provides for a strong, executive form of government, with considerable resemblance to the American system, as opposed to the parliamentary system under the present constitution. Under the 1945 document, power to amend the constitution and to determine the broad lines of national policy is vested in the People’s Consultative council. This council, in turn, is composed of members of the People’s Representative Council—i.e., the Parliament, and representatives of regional and other groups. The Parliament exercises joint legislative power with the President. A Supreme Consultative Council to advise the President is also provided for. The manner in which members of these three Councils are to be chosen is to be provided by law. The 1945 Constitution also provides for an independent judiciary and appropriate ministries.

The effect of this decision by the Indonesian Government, if carried out along the lines stated, would appear to be to reduce the powers currently exercised by the political parties and the Parliament, while strengthening the hand of the President and his advisors (including the Army). All four major political parties have indicated general approval of the Cabinet decision, although the Communists (PKI) have approved the return to the 1945 Constitution on the condition that “it exclusively serve to realize President Sukarno’s conception (1957 version) of embodying Communists in the Government.” In this connection, Prime Minister Djuanda informed Ambassador Jones unequivocally February 25 that President Sukarno had definitely abandoned that part of his earlier concept which would call for inclusion of Communists in the Cabinet.2 [Page 354] In the next few months, the parties, especially the PKI, may be expected to put up a last-ditch fight to retain some of their prerogatives, particularly in connection with the coming legislation on the simplification of the party system and the amendment of the general election law.

It is premature to say whether the implementation of the Cabinet’s decision will mean a substantial reduction of the power of the Communist Party, although the tendency would appear to be in this direction. Within the framework of the 1945 Constitution, the power of the PKI could be eclipsed along with that of the other major parties so that any change in the relative PKI parliamentary strength, following the next general elections, might not have as much significance as under the present governmental structure. With the exception of 35 functional representatives of the Armed Services to be appointed to Parliament by the President, the method of selecting the functional representatives of the new Parliament has not yet been made entirely clear. If the Army, directly or through a controlled “National Front” apparatus, can play a major role in the selection of parliamentary functional candidates, the relative parliamentary strength of the PKI could suffer a loss at the expense of Army-approved candidates. The Army, in its advisory role to the President, would also be likely to frustrate any PKI attempts to place Party members in key positions in the Executive.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 756D.13/2–2759. Confidential. Drafted by Wenzel and cleared in draft with Parsons. A copy of this memorandum was sent to Murphy.
  2. For the English text of the constitution of 1945, see Daniel S. Lev, The Transition to Guided Democracy: Indonesian Politics, 1957–1959 (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Modern Indonesia Project, 1966), pp. 290–298.
  3. Jones summarized this conversation in telegram 2641 from Djakarta, February 25. (Department of State, Central Files, 856D.2553/2–2559) See Supplement.