JAKARTA -- The streets here are filled with paraphernalia of the Indonesian elections on May 29: the yellow flags of the ruling Golkar party, green of the Islamic United Development Party (PPP) and the red symbol of Indonesian Democratic Party (PDI).
President Suharto and his ruling Golkar party expect to retain their positions, although that is not necessarily the people's choice. The military automatically receive 75 seats in the 500 seat parliament. In 1992, when the military had 100 reserved places, Golkar won 282 of the remaining seats, the PPP held 62 and the PDI 56.
The Centre for Strategic and International Studies predicts that Golkar will increase its majority because the laws allowing manipulation and poll rigging are still in place. Public servants, for example, are required to vote for Golkar, which has already announced that it expects to receive precisely 70.02% of the vote.
The election will be held on a Thursday, when most of the population is at work. Factory managers will distribute and collect the ballots, preventing a secret vote. Intimidation and fear have been a significant factor in ensuring majorities for Golkar in the past and are likely to affect the outcome for 1997.
The evidence of where the mass of people place their support can be seen on the streets. On May 11, tens of thousands of people jammed the streets here in a six-hour noisy and vibrant display of support for the tgreenv PPP -- despite an official ban on outdoor election rallies. These actions are the mass expression of civil disobedience and frustration, yet they take on a festive atmosphere.
Buses, trucks, cars, motorcycles adorned with green flags and banners crammed the already choked traffic. tMusicv is created by the throttling of engines, in time with the beating of petrol tins. People spray out of the vehicles, pile on to the roofs of buses or stand triumphantly, three and four on a motorcycle.
Amidst the PPP symbol were scattered enlarged pictures of Megawati Sukarnoputri, the deposed PDI leader, along with red and green banners proclaiming tMega-Bintangv (tMegav refers to Megawati and tbintangv means star, the symbol of the PPP) symbolising a coalition between the Megawati supporters in the PDI and the PPP against Golkar.
There were PPP banners with the slogans: tA Coalition of Mega-Bintang-People for Democracyv, tA Coalition of Mega-Bintang-People to Refuse Single Majority of Golkarv and tA Coalition of Mega-Bintang-People for Changev.
The Suharto government obviously views mass support for Megawati and the PDI as a threat. On May 12, it announced a ban on banners with tMega-Bintangv and declared that chanting for Megawati was illegal.
The ban has been strongly denounced by the PPP and 17 elected politicians from the PDI. Supporters of the Mega-Bintang slogan describe it as a creative demand from the masses.
Suharto also declared there would be a greater crackdown on alleged campaign violence.
This and the presence of additional police and a special military task force did not deter thousands of PPP and Mega-Bintang supporters from boldly taking over the streets for another six hours on May 13. The tension was evident, but supporters boldly displayed the green and red of the Mega-Bintang alliance.
During the campaign, pamphlets were distributed to people on the streets and in buses outlining the demands for a Megawati-PPP coalition. These included an end to the corrupt election system, an end to Suharto's presidency, an investigation into the source of wealth of Suharto's children and of his cliques, a decrease in prices, an end to Golkar's majority, an end to the political role of the military, an end to the five repressive election laws and improvements in the wages and conditions for workers.
The pamphlets were received enthusiastically, and many were displayed on the windows of vehicles. During the rally, there were occasional clashes with police. At one point a large contingent started throwing stones at the PT Telkom building, two police buildings and other government offices. The spontaneous outburst of anger is clearly directed against the government and its symbols of tdevelopmentv.
There were similar rallies across Java, with Mega-Bintang leaflets distributed in thousands. Commentator Arief Budiman was quoted in the Jakarta Post as saying the real cause of the violence is the Suharto regime's lack of tolerance for alternative viewpoints.
He described the banning of the People's Democratic Party (PRD) and Indonesian United Democratic Party, along with the removal of Megawati from the leadership of the PDI, as part of that process. He also stated that the violent outbreaks were the toffspringv of the July 27 demonstrations, implying that the military crushing of that democratic struggle had spawned the latest expressions of frustration and anger.
Further rallies are scheduled before the official end to public activities one week before the election.