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Monday, May 25, 1998 Published at 18:36 GMT 19:36 UK


Indonesian government promises fresh elections

President Habibie bowed to pressure from pressure inside and outside his cabinet

The new Indonesian government has announced after its first cabinet meeting with President Habibie that it plans to hold new elections as soon as the current electoral laws can be revised.


BBC's Jonathan Head discusses the implications of President Habibie's latest moves
No date was given for the new parliamentary elections, and the BBC Jakarta correspondent says it will be some months before opposition leaders can organise political parties to compete with the ruling Golkar party.

A growing number of ministers have been demanding early elections as the president faces calls for his resignation by students sceptical about his promises for reform.

A government spokesman said elections would be held as soon as possible after existing laws which restrict political activity are revised.


[ image: Amien Rais: 'elections within a year']
Amien Rais: 'elections within a year'
A leading opposition figure, Amien Rais, has said that the president indicated at a meeting on Saturday night that he would call elections within a year.

Political change has been a key demand of the pro-democracy demonstrators who forced the resignation of former President Suharto on Thursday.

Under the constitution, President Habibie could technically stay in office until the end of Mr Suharto's term in the year 2003, but his close relationship with the former ruler has raised doubts over his legitimacy in the eyes of the Indonesian people.

The BBC Jakarta correspondent says Mr Habibie is now considering allowing anyone who wants to to form their own political party, giving Indonesians their first taste of real political freedom for more than 40 years.

However, critics warn that unravelling the legacy of decades of authoritarianism will not be easy, and they question the will and ability of this government to carry out the task.

"We've been given the opportunity to remake the political landscape of our country," said one opposition figure. "But after so many years of living under Suharto, we have no idea how to do it."





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