Suharto, (born June 8, 1921, Kemusu Argamulja, Java, Dutch East Indies [now Indonesia]—died Jan. 27, 2008, Jakarta, Indonesia), army officer and political leader who was president of Indonesia from 1967 to 1998. His three decades of uninterrupted rule gave Indonesia much-needed political stability and sustained economic growth, but his authoritarian regime finally fell victim to an economic downturn and its own internal corruption.
On September 30, 1965, a group of disgruntled left-wing army officers and some PKI leaders tried to seize power in Jakarta, killing six of the army’s seven senior generals. Suharto was one of the highest-ranking officers to escape assassination, and, as head of the strategic command, he led the army in crushing the coup within a few days. Sukarno was suspected of complicity in the coup, and power now began to shift to the army. In the following months, Suharto directed a purge of communists and leftists in public life, and his example was followed in exaggerated form by vigilantes in a grand massacre of communists throughout the country in which hundreds of thousands lost their lives
Antigovernment demonstrations turned into rioting in Jakarta and other cities in May 1998, and Suharto, having lost the support of the military, was forced to resign the presidency on May 21. He was succeeded in office by the vice president, B.J. Habibie.