Monday, June 7, 1999 Published at 15:15 GMT 16:15 UK
Indonesia's overdue elections
Some election rallies have brought the capital Jakarta to a halt
By Jakarta Correspondent Jonathan Head
In this poll, 127 million Indonesians are deciding, to a large extent, what kind of government leads their country into the 21st century.
Since then, the country has been ruled by authoritarian leaders - President Sukarno until 1965, and until last year, President Suharto.
In any case the parliament was very weak. For 30 years, it did not initiate a single law, nor did it challenge Mr Suharto's power.
So this election is a new experience for most Indonesians.
Forty-eight parties are competing for 462 seats in the parliament. They include 19 Muslim-orientated parties, four workers' parties, two representing Christians and a number of radical and nationalist groups.
There are 82 seats in West Java, the most populous province, and just 4 in Benkulu and East Timor. Around half the seats are on the main island of Java and half on outer islands.
Another 38 seats are already guaranteed for the military.
After the election, the 500-seat parliament will join 200 regional and other representatives, chosen by local parliaments and the National Election Committee, to form the larger People's Consultative Assembly.
Given the number of parties contesting the election, none is likely to win an overall majority.
The three main opposition parties have promised to work together against Golkar, the party of former President Suharto.
The members of the new alliance - the Indonesian Democratic Party (PDI-Struggle), led by Megawati Sukarnoputri, the National Mandate Party of Amien Rais and the National Awakening party - have vowed to fight attempts by the old political elite to block reform.
Lengthy negotiations over possible coalitions will probably follow the election.
The final choice of president could well be a compromise candidate who may not be at the top of the big parties' lists.
In order to avoid clashes parties are allowed to hold rallies only every five days during the campaign period of 19 May to 4 June, and the rallies are supposed to be restricted to local districts.
Few parties are campaigning on a platform of policies; a notable exception is the National Mandate Party (PAN) led by Amien Rais, which is running a sophisticated, western-style campaign.
Most rely on religious, regional or personal loyalties for their supporters.
The main players
The Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI Perjuangan)
The PDI-P is a secular nationalist party, with its stronghold in the cities, Java and Bali, and islands with large non-Muslim populations. For a profile of Megawati Sukarnoputri click here.
Golkar campaigns in Java have often been attacked and the party is likely to fare badly there. But its close links to local officials will help it retain the support of voters in less politicised regions. For a profile of B.J. Habibie click here.
The National Mandate Party (PAN)
An outspoken Muslim intellectual, he has moved away from his once radical Islamic views and now has a liberal, pluralist vision of Indonesia. PAN relies on members of Muhammadiyah, a nationwide organisation of orthodox Muslims, for support - Amien Rais used to be its chairman. But it has also attracted young, western-educated professionals, ethnic Chinese and Christians. For a profile of Amien Rais click here.
The United Development Party (PPP)
It faces competition from other Islamic parties but benefits from an existing network of branches across the country.
The National Awakening Party (PKB)
Its strongholds are in areas like East Java and South Kalimantan which follow NU's traditional, mystical brand of Islam. NU is opposed to any kind of Islamic government in Indonesia. For a profile of Abrurrahman Wahid click here.