Suharto Confounds the Doomsayers

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JAKARTA: Journalists scrambled to rewrite their leads today as President Suharto appeared to cheat his fate. Earlier in the day Indonesia’s military appeared to be pressing for the strongman’s resignation -- the head of Suharto’s own ruling party issued a call for the president to step down, and the army escorted student demonstrators into parliament. But following a 30-minute meeting with the president, the nation’s top military commanders called a press conference and said there was no question of Suharto's being ousted.

"Everyone was writing Suharto’s political obituary and then the military comes out and says he’s staying put," says TIME correspondent Terry McCarthy. "Suharto essentially stared them down. None of these guys has the courage to stand up to Suharto and say it’s time to go, even though they know they have to do that in order to reform the economy." Although the military is likely to ban Wednesday’s planned street demonstration against Suharto, the turmoil will probably continue, says McCarthy. What looked like Suharto’s final curtain today turned out to be simply the prelude to an encore. Then again, McCarthy points out, his encores could continue for some time.