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Indonesia Chief To Run for 7th Term

January 20, 1998

JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) _ President Suharto, Asia’s longest-serving ruler, on Tuesday accepted the ruling party’s nomination to run for a seventh five-year term.

Harmoko, chairman of the ruling Golkar party, announced Suharto’s decision after meeting with the 76-year-old leader at the presidential palace.

The ruling party conducted a survey that showed the Indonesian people want the former army general to stay on after 32 years in power, Harmoko said. He did offer details on the poll.

Although Suharto is firmly in control of the government, there have been growing calls for him to step aside as Indonesia struggles with a severe economic crisis.

Prices and unemployment are soaring and there have been scattered outbursts of social unrest in the aftermath of an Asia-wide financial meltdown that first surfaced in Thailand last summer and has since spread to much of the region.

Suharto’s long rest in December had fueled speculation that he was seriously ill or too old to lead the nation of 202 million people, the fourth-most populous in the world. However, he has appeared in good health in recent public appearances.

The presidential election scheduled for March is not conducted by popular vote. It is decided by a special 1,000-member assembly dominated by Suharto supporters, hence Suharto’s expected to win.

The president accepted the nomination at a meeting with Harmoko, armed forces chief Feisal Tanjung and Yogie Memed, home affairs minister.

The president did not name a vice-presidential candidate, but said his deputy should be loyal, have a knowledge of science and technology and be able to perform in international forums.

One candidate fitting that description is Bacharuddin Jusuf Habibie, the 61-year-old minister of research and technology. He is a controversial figure because of his sponsorship of expensive, high-tech projects, including a national jet plane program.

Last week, Indonesia agreed to economic reforms required by the International Monetary Fund in order to free up a $40 billion bailout package.

Suharto, whose six children have huge business interests in telecommunications, toll roads and other industries, had apparently been reluctant to sign the package.

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