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Army admits backing Suharto party

South China Morning Post - March 3, 1997

Agencies in Jakarta – Indonesia's armed forces chief has lent the military's backing to the ruling Golkar party, breaking decades of traditional neutrality.

General Feisal Tanjung, speaking in Jakarta in the lead up to the May 29 general elections, said "the big ABRI [armed forces] family" channels its "political aspirations" to Golkar.

General Tanjung's statement, made at a leadership meeting of the opposition United Development Party, was in response to members' questions about the military's relationship to Golkar.

News of his comments came as thousands of United Development Party supporters poured on to the streets of Yogyakarta in the Central Java province.

It was the party's second mass procession this year, despite a ruling prohibiting the country's three political parties - Golkar, the United Development Party and the Indonesian Democracy Party - from organising rallies in the run-up to the elections.

Indonesian law also stipulates that the armed forces must remain neutral in politics.

To guarantee this, members do not vote, and 75 military representatives are appointed to the 500-seat Parliament by the President.

Golkar, the party of President Suharto, has won every election since 1971.

Army chief General Raden Hartono was last year publicly criticised when he said for the first time that the Army and soldiers' families must throw their support behind Golkar.

Defence Minister Edi Sudrajat, a retired army general, in January warned the military to remain independent.

General Tanjung said groups related to the armed forces, such as organisations for veterans, soldiers' wives and children, and military affiliated youths were also supporters of Golkar.

He said 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".

The military resorted to "limited repression" to maintain national stability, he said.