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Tuesday, January 20, 1998 Published at 12:23 GMT


Suharto to stay as president
image: [ Suharto is standing despite reports that he is ill ]
Suharto is standing despite reports that he is ill

Indonesian President Suharto has formally accepted his party's nomination to stay in office for a seventh five-year term.

The decision by the People's Consultative Assembly to stick with Mr Suharto virtually guarantees his re-appointment in March.

Neither his 32 years in power nor the fall out from the south-east Asian economic crisis appear to have affected Mr Suharto in the view of the 1,000-member assembly.

After meeting the 76-year-old President, the Chairman of the ruling Golkar party, Mr Harmoko, said: "Suharto accepts the responsibility and is willing to become nominated as president."

"For the sake of the country and as a fighter, Mr Suharto said he will not run from his responsibilities ... even if he has to sacrifice his family duties," he said.

Despite recent calls for Mr Suharto to stand down, he has retained the backing of the military during the fall in the region's currencies.

Persistent concerns remain over his health but during recent appearances he has been relaxed and well.

Among the most recent was the televised signing of the International Monetary Fund package, which offers Indonesia a financial helpline in return for radical change to the economy.

Then, Mr Suharto surprised some observers by saying monopolies, including some controlled by his family members, would be dismantled.

Yet, the rupiah is still to recover against the dollar and many banks remain on the verge of collapse.

The big debate now in Jakarta is, who will the President will choose as his running mate.

There have been hints by Mr Suharto that he may favour the controversial Minister for Research and Technology, Bachruddin Jusuf Habibie.

But the mood of the markets would be unlikely to improve with the choice of Mr Habibie. His support for expensive nationalistic projects such as the Indonesian aerospace industry make him an unpopular choice in business circles. And as vice-president, Mr Habibe would automatically succeed President Suharto if he died or was incapacitated.

Other front-runners for the job are the National Development Planning Minister, Ginandjar Kartasasmita, and the Information Minister, Raden Hartono.

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