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."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Data Scientist - London - £50,000 + bonus

£35000 - £50000 per annum + generous bonus: Ashdown Group: Business Analytics ...

Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Development) - Kingston

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Dev...

Ashdown Group: Editor-in-chief - Financial Services - City, London

£60000 - £70000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Ashdown Group: Junior Application Support Analyst - Fluent German Speaker

£25000 - £30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A global leader operating...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

Flesh in Venice

Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
11 best anti-ageing day creams

11 best anti-ageing day creams

Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

Juventus vs Real Madrid

Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power