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Friday, June 4, 1999 Published at 15:30 GMT 16:30 UK

World: Asia-Pacific

Jakarta violence as campaigning ends

Anti-Golkar protesters burned the party's flag

Indonesian troops have opened fire in the capital, Jakarta, as opposition supporters clashed with those of the ruling Golkar party on the final day of campaigning before Monday's parliamentary elections.

Indonesia Flashpoints
Mobs hurled rocks at Golkar supporters and set fire to vehicles. They reportedly began chasing the ruling party's followers, stripping and beating those who were caught, and burning Golkar flags and T-shirts.

Hundreds of riot police, armed with batons and shields, were sent to at least three trouble spots in the capital, and soldiers fired warning shots over the heads of a 2,000-strong crowd at Senen in eastern Jakarta.

The BBC's Matt Frei: "Violence is never far from the surface in this country"
Some soldiers fired directly into the crowd. Officers at the scene said they were using blanks. State radio reported that five people had been injured, including two children.

Friday's violence was a rare sign of serious unrest during electioneering for Monday's vote, hailed as Indonesia's first truly democratic poll in four decades.

Golkar had earlier been staging its final bid for support, gathering several thousand campaigners for a rally in a Jakarta sports stadium.

[ image: Riot police were out in force on the streets of the capital]
Riot police were out in force on the streets of the capital
Banner-waving Golkar supporters also gathered at Jakarta's Welcome Monument.

But the party faithful were outnumbered by several thousand supporters of the People's Sovereignty Party (PDR). It has nominated Cooperatives Minister Adi Sasono, who has been expelled from Golkar, as its candidate for the presidential election in November.

The BBC's Jonathan Head: Violence was not enough to mar a remarkably good-natured campaign
Golkar's few thousand supporters on the streets of Jakarta contrasted sharply with the hundreds of thousands who came out in force on Thursday to support the opposition Indonesian Democratic Party (PDI) - Struggle.

Friday completes a rotating schedule designed to avoid confrontation between the major parties. A two-day cooling-off period follows over the weekend before Indonesians cast their votes.

}Golkar, the party of President BJ Habibie, is not expected to succeed in Monday's elections. Correspondents say the ruling party is discredited and distrusted by Indonesians for its corruption and abuse of power during the regime of President Suharto.

But BBC Jakarta Correspondent Jonathan Head says the party should not be written off entirely because it is still strong in Indonesia's rural areas. Election monitors fear many urban Indonesians are not prepared for the possibility that Golkar may still do well, despite its unpopularity in the cities, our correspondent says.

PDI-Struggle, led by Megawati Sukarnoputri, is widely tipped to get the most votes, but looks unlikely to win an overall majority.

[ image: Only several thousand Golkar campaigners turned out on Friday]
Only several thousand Golkar campaigners turned out on Friday
Golkar chairman Akbar Tandjung said on Thursday that his party had abandoned its role as an instrument of authoritarian rule and was dedicated to democratic reform and human rights.

The BBC's Jonathan Head: The Indonesian public has turned against Golkar
He cited the record of President Habibie, who legalised political parties and freed political prisoners after President Suharto's downfall.

"We shall be grateful if Golkar is given the trust to be the winner in the upcoming elections. However, should we lose, we are ready to be outside the circle of government and become a power to balance the government as an opposition," the party chairman said.

He predicted Golkar would win 30% to 40% of the vote, but opinion polls have shown the party has far less support, and attendance at rallies has been relatively light.

Campaigning comes to an official end on Friday, ahead of Monday's elections in which some 130 million Indonesians are eligible to vote.

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