Indonesia's armed forces chief has lent the military's backing to the ruling Golkar party ahead of May polls, the state news agency reported yesterday.
General Feisal Tanjung, speaking here on Saturday in the lead up to May 29 general elections, said "the big Abri (armed forces) family" channels its "political aspirations" to Golkar.
Gen Feisal's statement, made at a leadership meeting of the opposition United Development Party (PPP), was in response to PPP members' questions about the military's relationship to Golkar.
News of his comments came as thousands of PPP supporters poured onto the streets of the Central Java province city of Yogyakarta yesterday. The crowd, mostly youths, formed a procession about one kilometre long on the main streets of the city, sporting outfits in the party green, and waving the party flag, the state Antara news agency reported.
This was the party's second mass procession this year, despite a ruling prohibiting the country's three political parties – Golkar, PPP and the Indonesian Democracy Party (PDI) – from organising street rallies in the run-up to the elections.
Members of the Indonesian armed forces do not vote and 75 military representatives are appointed to the 500-seat parliament by the President.
Golkar, the party of Indonesian President Suharto, has won every election since 1971.
Army chief General Raden Hartono was last year publicly criticised when he said the army and soldiers' families must throw support behind Golkar.
Defence Minister Edi Sudrajat, a retired army general, in January warned the military to remain independent and not to take sides.
Gen Feisal said on Saturday that groups related to the armed forces, such as organisations for veterans, soldiers' wives and children and military-affiliated youths, are also supporters of Golkar.
He added the military must crack down on dissent to protect the nation's unity. The armed forces "cannot sacrifice the nation's very important integrity and stability only to be tolerant towards concepts and actions which cannot be measured," he told the PPP.
He added the military resorts to "limited repression" to maintain national stability.
Its tough line is a "preventive" measure against "destructive forces," he said, adding democracy is "not everything", especially if it has "counterproductive" and "anarchic" forms.