Suharto makes sure of his next election victory

PRESIDENT Suharto of Indonesia yesterday convened an assembly of tame supporters to re-elect him for his seventh consecutive term and with even greater powers than before. Despite presiding over the country's worst economic crisis for 40 years, President Suharto is certain of being elected for another five-year term by the People's Consultative Assembly (MPR) which meets in the capital Jakarta until the middle of next week.

Almost all the members have been chosen or approved by him, decision- making is by "consensus" rather than by voting and, in any case, he is the sole candidate. The only person to have declared her willingness to stand against him, the opposition figure, Megawati Sukarnoputri, was ousted from parliament last year and is therefore disqualified from standing.

The assembly meets at a time of exceptional unease in Indonesia, which has suffered in the last seven months from an intensifying series of catastrophes - a currency crisis which has reduced the value of the rupiah by 70 per cent, forest fires, smog, drought, soaring inflation, mass lay-offs, aircraft crashes, food riots and the looting of Chinese shops.

If the election of the 76-year-old Mr Suharto, and his controversial choice as vice-president, the technology minister, B J Habibie, is not in doubt, the more pressing question is whether the MPR can carry out its ritualistic tasks without triggering popular opposition on the streets of Jakarta.

A Manila newspaper reported a conversation between President Suharto and the Philippines foreign minister in which the President expressed fears of a "revolution" if the price of rice rose further. Indonesia's South-East Asian neighbours are already said to be making plans for the possible exodus of Indonesian refugees if the food situation continues to decline.

Today, the former United States vice-president, Walter Mondale, will arrive in Jakarta as President Bill Clinton's personal envoy to Mr Suharto in an attempt to encourage political and economic reform.

Public demonstrations have been banned for the duration of the MPR's deliberations, which is likely to grant the President sweeping emergency powers. Troops and personnel carriers are stationed outside the parliament building, and some 35,000 troops and police have been mobilised.

Also in question is the future of the $43bn (pounds 27bn) rescue package put together by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to stabilise the crippled economy. Ever since it was negotiated last year, Mr Suharto has appeared reluctant to implement its measures, which are designed to increase competitiveness in a market hitherto dominated by a few rich businessmen, many of them friends or relatives of the President.

"Despite the fact that we already have started to carry out clear and fundamental reforms and a restructuring program, there are no signs yet that the situation has improved," the Indonesian leader said in his televised speech to the MPR yesterday. "On the contrary, the people's life is becoming more difficult."

His latest idea, for a currency board which would peg the value of the rupiah to that of the US dollar, provoked deep unease at the IMF which threatened to suspend its aid if the plan was put into action. Yesterday, President Suharto announced a new plan, called "IMF plus" regarded by him and his advisers as "more appropriate" to Indonesia's problems, but unlikely to be welcomed by the international community. "If Suharto does not carry out the necessary reforms and stick to the plan," a US official told reporters last on Friday, "we will line up very strongly against the delivery of the next tranche."

News
news

Lincoln MP Karl McCartney 'denied all knowledge' of the Twitter activity

News
Michael Buerk in the I'm A Celebrity jungle 2014
people
News
The author PD James, who died on 27 November 2014
people

Detective novelist who wrote Death comes to Pemberley passed away peacefully at her home, aged 94

Arts and Entertainment
Joel Edgerton, John Turturro and Christian Bale in Exodus: Gods and Kings
filmDirector said film would 'never have been financed' with ethnic minority actors in key roles
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Life and Style
tech
News
people
Life and Style
tech Manband spurn Spotify to stream album exclusively with Google
News
Irradiated turkey and freeze dried mash potato will be on the menu this thanksgiving
video
News
Andy Murray with his girlfriend of nine years, Kim Sears who he has got engaged to
peopleWimbledon champion announces engagement to girlfriend Kim Sears
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Finance and Office Administrator

£35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An award winning field marketing agency ...

Recruitment Genius: Part Time Telesales / Appointment Maker

£10000 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A professional telesales/appoin...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Execution Trader

£30000 - £250000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A global Rolling Spot FX, Comm...

Austen Lloyd: Clinical Negligence Associate / Partner - Bristol

Super Package: Austen Lloyd: BRISTOL - SENIOR CLINICAL NEGLIGENCE - An outstan...

Day In a Page

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game
There's a Good Girl exhibition: How female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising

In pictures: There's a Good Girl exhibition

The new exhibition reveals how female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising
UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover - from advent calendars to doll's houses

UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover

It worked with cupcakes, doughnuts and macarons so no wonder someone decided to revamp the humble biscuit
Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

It's no surprise that the building game born in Sweden in 2009 and now played by millions, has imitators keen to construct their own mega money-spinner
The King's School is way ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology

Staying connected: The King's School

The school in Cambridgeshire is ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology. Richard Garner discovers how teachers and pupils stay connected
Christmas 2014: 23 best women's perfumes

Festively fragrant: the best women's perfumes

Give a loved one a luxe fragrance this year or treat yourself to a sensual pick-me-up
Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition

Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund

The Ox celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition
Billy Joe Saunders vs Chris Eubank Jnr: When two worlds collide

When two worlds collide

Traveller Billy Joe Saunders did not have a pampered public-school upbringing - unlike Saturday’s opponent Chris Eubank Jnr
Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

Putin’s far-right ambition

Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

Escape to Moominland

What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?