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Last Updated: Wednesday, 21 April, 2004, 12:08 GMT 13:08 UK
Tainted general in Indonesia bid
Retired Gen Wiranto
Gen Wiranto has promised strong leadership
Indonesia's former ruling party Golkar has chosen an alleged war criminal, General Wiranto, to run for president.

He has been indicted for war crimes for his role in the crackdown on the independence movement in East Timor, but remains popular across Indonesia.

"Wiranto must stand trial, not stand for office," said the East Timor Action Network, a US-based rights group.

The BBC's Rachel Harvey in Jakarta says there will be a close fight in the presidential poll in July.

Golkar held power for three decades and is set to be the largest force in parliament after this month's election.

But so far polls suggest Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, from the little-known Democrat Party, is the front-runner in the presidential race, followed by current incumbent Megawati Sukarnoputri.

Hard campaigner

Gen Wiranto beat the apparent frontrunner, Akbar Tanjung, for his party's nomination.

Mr Tanjung fought a lengthy legal battle which saw him cleared of charges that he embezzled millions of dollars of state aid, and was ahead in the first round of voting.

President Megawati Sukarnoputri and Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, former security chief
Wiranto will face President Megawati and ex-security chief Susilo
But Gen Wiranto, the last military chief during former President Suharto's autocratic rule, came top in a second-round run-off at a marathon meeting of party officials which lasted 14 hours.

Our correspondent says the retired general has spent much of the past few months travelling round the country drumming up support for his presidential bid, while Mr Tanjung was busy fighting the corruption charges.

She says Gen Wiranto's promise of strong leadership and the fact that he comes from outside normal political circles appears to have helped his cause.

His next test will come on 5 July, in what is expected to be a hotly contested vote for president - the first time Indonesians have had a direct say in appointing their leader.

Charges denied

Human rights groups have reacted angrily to the news of Gen Wiranto's candidacy.

Munir, who heads Jakarta's Imparsial organisation, said it was a "serious setback to the cause of human rights in Indonesia."

Gen Wiranto's past could also cause problems with foreign governments, should he be successful in his presidential bid.

WIRANTO CHARGES
Indicted by prosecutors in East Timor over 1999 violence
But Indonesia highly unlikely to hand him over to face trial
Few Indonesians believe the allegations against him
Wiranto denies any wrongdoing

He is accused of crimes against humanity for failing to stop the violence which marred East Timor's transition to independence from Indonesia.

More than 1,000 people were killed in the lead up to and after the 1999 vote, in violence blamed on militias linked to the Indonesian military.

"It's going to be very delicate for Indonesia to handle in the unlikely event that Wiranto would win," said East Timor's foreign minister, Jose Ramos Horta.

But according to analysts, those concerned at the prospect of an alleged war criminal becoming head of state need not panic just yet.

"The real battle now is between Megawati and Wiranto jostling for the number two position," said Muhammad Qodari, research director of the Indonesian Survey Institute, told Reuters news agency.




WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Rachel Harvey
"He's accused of crimes against humanity"



SEE ALSO:
Profile: General Wiranto
21 Apr 04  |  Asia-Pacific
Blow to Megawati re-election bid
19 Apr 04  |  Asia-Pacific
Indonesia's packed election year
19 Jan 04  |  Asia-Pacific
Country profile: Indonesia
13 Nov 03  |  Country profiles


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