Golkar and Abri back new term for Suharto

Candidacy in next year’s polls assured.

PRESIDENT Suharto’s candidacy in next year’s presidential polls is a certainty following the backing he received yesterday from the ruling Golkar and the influential Indonesian armed forces (Abri).

Analysts said that the expressions of support from such key players on the political stage – including Presidential Advisory Council chairman Sudomo – were aimed at underscoring early and unwavering backing for the Indonesian leader standing for a record seventh five-year term.

The 76-year-old Suharto has long been tipped for another term. But formal moves were initiated only this week when Golkar parliamentary chief Moestahid Astari called on the party executive to nominate him.

Golkar chairman Harmoko has done just that, and said the party would make a formal announcement at its October leadership congress.

Abri’s socio-political affairs chief Lieutenant-General Syarwan Hamid also told reporters that the military, which has a significant political role, would back Mr Suharto again.

He dismissed the notion that early backing for Mr Suharto’s renomination was “engineered” and was backed in this by retired Admiral Sudomo, a trusted presidential aide. Political observers contacted yesterday described the move as a bid by Golkar and the military to dispel any notion that there was wavering support for Mr Suharto, or that there have been concerns about the President’s age and the state of his health.

Noted Prof Ryaas Rashid of the Indonesian Civil Service Institute: “They are sending a signal out at the earliest possible time to show clear support for the President.”

He noted that Golkar was “embarrassed” in the run-up to the 1993 presidential election because it was the last of the country’s three political parties to come out and back Mr Suharto’s re-election.

Mr Umar Juoro of the Centre for Information and Development Studies said another reason behind the backing for Mr Suharto was to “create a bandwagon of followers” ahead of the presidential election next March.

“The object of the exercise is to put pressure on other political organisations to support him,” he said, adding that Golkar and Mr Harmoko, in particular, stood to “score points” by being the first to nominate Mr Suharto.

The President will be chosen by the 1,000-member People’s Consultative Assembly which is made up of Parliament’s 500 MPs and another 500 representatives appointed by the President.

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