APSN Banner

Minor party to defy Soeharto's election edict

Sydney Morning Herald - March 4, 1997

Louise Williams, Jakarta – Indonesia's minority Muslim party has approved a boycott of the upcoming national elections in one key region and says it may ignore the Soeharto Government's campaign rules elsewhere because they overwhelming favour the ruling party.

The leaders of the United Development Party (PPP), one of only two legal alternative parties permitted to contest the May national elections, ended a three-day meeting challenging the campaigning restrictions set by the Soeharto Government as undemocratic and promising to use any method regardless of the rules.

The meeting also approved a boycott by seven branches in heavily populated Central Java which say they are unable to convey their political message so will not participate in the elections despite President Soeharto's call for a full voter turnout.

The Soeharto Government has banned mass rallies following months of sporadic rioting across Indonesia and has limited campaigning to indoor meetings, media broadcasts and leaflets. The restrictions overwhelmingly favour the ruling Golkar Party which has the backing of the Government infrastructure, the guaranteed support of the armed forces and the nation's 6 million public servants and their families as well as access to the Government-controlled media.

The Muslim-based PPP said it would campaign door-to-door if necessary because it did not have the funds to bus people into halls for indoor meetings. Yesterday a rally of PPP supporters about a kilometre long marched through the streets of the major central Javanese city of Yogyakarta, in defiance of the ban on mass meetings. Following a series of riots beginning last year the Government has banned all mass meetings and announced that all election speeches and broadcasts will be subject to censorship.

"We have seen the politicisation of the bureaucracy and other conduct which does not distinguish official duties from efforts to lift a certain political group [Golkar] to victory," the PPP said.

Only 425 of the 1,000 seats in Parliament are at stake in the May polls and the ruling Golkar group has already said it will win over 70 per cent of the vote. Seventy-five seats are reserved for the armed forces and the remaining 500 are appointed by the Government.

President Soeharto warned over the weekend that he would "clobber" anyone who attempted to overthrow him unconstitutionally.

"If I hear anyone is violating the law, I will clobber them really hard. I won't hesitate to take action against them," he said.

He shrugged off the boycott threat saying people who did not vote would "only have themselves to blame" if they were not represented.