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Indonesia: Indonesia's Ruling Party
- Subject: Indonesia: Indonesia's Ruling Party
- From: suriya@xxxxxxxxxxxx
- Date: Sun, 23 May 1999 19:42:00
Subject: Indonesia: Indonesia's Ruling Party Faces Uncertain Future
Indonesia's Ruling Party Faces Uncertain Future
JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) -- In Jakarta, crowds surround vehicles belonging to
the ruling Golkar party and rip up and burn their yellow political banners. At
a political rally in the Indonesian countryside, opposition supporters force
Golkar cadres to strip off their uniforms.
Once accustomed to landslide victories, the party that obediently backed
authoritarian President Suharto during his 32 years in power is now viewed
pariah by many Indonesians. Riots and protests forced Suharto to quit last
On Monday, Golkar planned a major rally in Jakarta ahead of parliamentary
elections on June 7, but it was unlikely to match the turnout Sunday for
opposition leader Megawati Sukarnoputri. Hundreds of thousands of her red-clad
supporters roamed the capital in joyous convoys.
Megawati's Indonesian Democratic Party in Struggle is a front-runner ahead of
the elections, which are a key step in Indonesia's transition to democracy.
Under Suharto, Golkar dominated the electoral machinery, cajoling voters and
trouncing two other officially approved parties at the polls. Some districts
dutifully turned in 100 percent vote counts for the ruling party.
Now there are 48 parties, and Megawati and other opposition leaders have
a coalition that analysts expect to win more than 50 percent of the vote.
Golkar, which has named President B.J. Habibie as its presidential candidate,
has been trailing in opinion polls.
Chastened Golkar officials plan to hold Monday's rally indoors to avoid a
confrontation with opponents. In recent weeks, their supporters have been
hounded at campaign events.
"I know that there won't be many people who vote for us," said Sarpani, a
Golkar official. "We won't say anything bad about other parties. If they hit
us, OK, but we won't hit them back."
Some critics have urged Golkar to drop out of the campaign, fearing the
presence of its supporters on the streets could unleash attacks by rival
Under Habibie's guidance, Golkar has endorsed democratic reforms, apologized
for corruption and other wrongdoing during the old regime and flashed campaign
ads on television with the logo, "New Golkar."
But it has been unable to shake its status quo image, and has been riven by
splits and internal disputes. Marzuki Darusman, a prominent Golkar leader and
human rights activist, said Habibie was the wrong presidential candidate
because he was a symbol of the old system.
After the election, the 500-member Parliament will join with 200 other
delegates in the People's Consultative Assembly, Indonesia's highest
legislative body, to choose a new president.
So far, there is little evidence that Golkar has been using old methods to win
In the past, ethnic Chinese tycoons stood to lose business if they didn't help
fund Golkar campaigns. Village leaders knew they might be denied development
aid if they didn't round up Golkar votes. Civil servants worried they would
lose their salaries if they voted for another party.
This year, Golkar might get help from the military, a traditional ally that
been granted 38 appointed seats in the new legislature. The military could
a pivotal role in Parliament if its delegates vote as a bloc, although its
commanders have vowed to remain neutral.
Golkar, which means "functional groups" in the Indonesian language, started
in the 1960s as an umbrella of anti-communist groups.
Suharto, an ex-army general who crushed the Communist Party after an alleged
communist coup attempt in 1965, turned Golkar into an electoral vehicle to
in office and promote a democratic image.
The party's symbol is the banyan, a tropical fig tree with aerial roots that
descend from the branches and develop new trunks. For many Indonesians, the
umbrella imagery is no longer apt.
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