Suharto calls for speedy elections
South News May 19

Jakarta : President Suharto has announced steps towards democratic reform and early elections Tuesday but has rejected calls for him to stand down immediately.

"Elections will be implemented as soon as possible," Mr Suharto said. "I state that I am not prepared to be nominated as presidential candidate again."

Suharto announcement came as thousands of students swarmed into Indonesia's parliament today demanding President Suharto quit as parliamentary leaders met to discuss his fate.

More than 5000 students gathered at the parliamentary complex in central Jakarta and some climbed onto a wide second-floor balcony on the three-storey main building to unfurl banners saying "Down with Suharto" and "We want reform".

In a televised address to the nation, the Indonesian leader said he would establish a new Reform Cabinet and a committee including civic leaders to quickly develop democratic change. These changes would include laws against cartels and corruption.

"I will immediately form a committee of reform whose membership will comprise public figures and academic experts and will have the task of rapidly settling the laws on elections, parties, the legislative anti-monopoly and anti-corruption."

In a concession to the growing demands the committee would include university academics,students and other critics of the Government, in order to oversee reforms. Suharto said the parliament would be given the opportunity of accepting nominations for the positions of president and vice president.

President Suharto said that a leadership transition must follow the constitution and a proper constitutional process was necessary to preserve the nation's security and unity. He said general elections would be called as possible and he would not be nominating.

Speaker Harmoko and leaders of parliament's four political factions met behind closed doors to discuss Harmoko's call for Suharto to exit gracefully.

Harmoko, accompanied by deputy speakers Syarwan Hamid of the military faction (F-ABRI), Ismail Hasan Metareum of the United Development Party faction (F-PPP), Abdul Gafur of the Golkar Party faction (F-KP) and Fatimah Achmad of the Indonesian Democratic Party faction (F-PDI), appealed to the people to stay calm, exercise self-restraint, maintain unity and cohesion, and uphold peace and order so that reforms could be done constitutionally.

The president's refusal to quit drew criticism from Amien Rais, the leader of one Indonesia's largest Muslim groups. Mr Rais said he was disappointed by President Suharto's decision, adding that the president was deceiving himself and buying time. He said a mass anti-government demonstartion planned for Wednesday would go ahead.