"Political power in Indonesia comes directly from the military," says TIME U.N. correspondent William Dowell, who has been following the nation's financial and social crisis. "These protests have been remarkably persistent. But as long as he has the loyalty of the army, Suharto has little to fear."
Besides, if not Suharto, who? "The successor that Suharto himself has chosen has no credibility with the army," says Dowell. "And he's been very careful to keep the factions in the military squabbling, so that he's the only figure they can all agree on." The president turns 77 next month; Dowell points out he may soon die, or decide to retire. But after 30 years of kinglike reign, Suharto seems sure to depart on his own terms.