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Mega supporters disrupt PDI electioneering

Agence France Presse - April 22, 1997

Jakarta – Supporters of Indonesia's popular ousted politician Megawati Sukarnoputri disrupted a rally held by a rival faction of her opposition party, reports said Tuesday.

Thousands of Megawati supporters joined the 4,000-strong crowd at the Indonesian Democracy Party (PDI) rally, which was organised by a faction loyal to her rival Suryadi (Eds:one name). Several of her supporters took over the stage at the rally in Surbaya, East Java, on Monday, and began chanting pro-Megawati slogans, the Kompas daily said.

The two factions hurled stones and bottles at each other before the meeting was cancelled.

With government backing Suryadi ousted Megawati, daughter of modern Indonesia's founding father, former president Sukarno, in mid-term last June as leader of the party.

The Indonesian government has rejected her list of parliamentary candidates for the coming elections, including Megawati's own name. Local pro-Suryadi official, Sabrot Dodong Malioboro, who ended the rally, also said his party would refrain from further campaign activities in East Java "to prevent further negative impacts."

"PDI needs security guarantees," Malioboro said, adding "the recurrence of such incidents may psychologically affect and disadvantage PDI members."

Megawati herself told her faction Sunday to boycott the month-long campaign, although her officials said later she would participate in the election, due on May 29.

Suryadi remains unpopular among the party faithful and Monday was faced with further disruption by Megawati's supporters, particularly in Java.

In Jakarta Suryadi complained to the National Election Supervision Committee many of the PDI flags and banners installed by his supporters around the city disappeared after a few hours.

He believed the party symbols were taken down by Megawati supporters who were acting on her call for a campaign boycott.

In Jakarta, the PDI's campaign was quiet, with small-scale meetings and rallies held around the capital, the Kompas daily said. In Central Java, a stronghold of Megawati supporters, Suryadi followers limited their campaigning on Monday to setting up flags, stickers and banners containing the party symbol.

In Bandung, some 180 kilometres (110 miles) southeast of here, Suryadi's supporters failed to put up a huge party billboard in town after thousands of Megawati supporters got in their way, the Antara news agency said.

The country's main opposition, the Moslem-led United Development Party (PPP) is scheduled on Tuesday to hold campaign rallies in several places around the capital and in the main cities of Java. PPP, which Monday complained the state-owned Televisi Republik Indonesia had failed to report on their huge rallies in Sumatra on Sunday, was then given significant coverage of its party activities in Kalimantan late Monday.

The ruling Golkar party is scheduled to campaign in Kalimantan, the Indonesian part of Borneo, and in Sulawesi. Golkar chairman Harmoko is scheduled to address crowds in East and South Kalimantan on Tuesday. Indonesia's 124 million eligible voters will indirectly elect candidates to 425 parliamentary seats in the May 29 polls by choosing from the country's three official political parties – Golkar, PPP and PDI.

Campaigning ends on May 23.

President Suharto's Golkar has scored landslide victories in the past five elections since 1971, and is expected to win again this year. Golkar has been repeatedly criticized for using government facilities and officials to gain support in the elections.