Suharto under siege by his people; hundreds of thousands protest

JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — Indonesia’s besieged president stood silent Wednesday behind a shield of tanks and troops while student protesters ran wild in the halls of parliament, Washington hinted he should quit and hundreds of thousands rallied across the country in an unprecedented demand for his ouster.
The opposition and a leading newspaper said Suharto would step down as early as Thursday, handing power temporarily to his vice president. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright increased the pressure, urging Suharto to “preserve his legacy” by providing for a democratic transition after 32 years in control.
In Jakarta, the military closed down the city with barbed-wire barricades, heavy armor and platoons of soldiers, forcing the cancellation of what was to be a 1 million-strong protest in a park outside Suharto’s palace.
Blocked in the capital, unprecedented anti-Suharto protests succeeded in at least a half-dozen other cities and towns. In one site alone, Suharto’s hometown of Yogyakarta, police estimated the turnout at 250,000 people; witnesses said it was twice that.
At parliament, students occupied the marble buildings for a third day, their numbers swelling to 10,000. Protesters dragged an effigy of Suharto through the crowd of jeering young people, whose protest — unhindered by the military — took on the mood of a wild party.
Students danced in the main assembly hall. Others climbed the roof or broke into offices, folding official papers into paper airplanes and sailing them off balconies.
As the protests raged, opposition leader Amien Rais said Suharto would resign soon, likely on Thursday. He quoted government sources as saying a transition government would be set up, headed by Vice President Bacharuddin Jusuf Habibie, to prepare for parliamentary elections within six months.
Kompas newspaper said it expected Suharto would hand over power to Habibie after announcing a new Cabinet team to reform Indonesia’s political system.