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Indonesia Supreme Court Rejects Petition to End Former Ruling Party - 2001-07-31

Indonesia's Supreme Court has rejected a petition asking for the former ruling political party of ex-president Suharto to be dissolved. The court ruling sparked a small but rowdy protest. The decision paves the way for the party to be included in the cabinet of new President Megawati Sukarnoputri.

The five-judge panel threw out the legal challenge to the Golkar Party, once the vehicle by which then-President Suharto exercised his autocratic rule over Indonesia. In its ruling, the court dismissed a lawsuit that charged Golkar with illegal fundraising during the 1999 election campaign.

A group of activists had accused Golkar with amassing millions of dollars over the legal campaign finance limits. But, speaking for the court, Judge Asma Sami Ibrahim said the suit was rejected because there was insufficient evidence to support the allegations.

The ruling sparked an angry outburst by an anti-Golkar crowd gathered outside the court, just a few hundred meters from the presidential palace. Police scuffled with some of the several hundred protesters, and fired tear gas and warning shots to disperse the crowd. At least one demonstrator was reported injured.

For years, the party acted as the machine under which the Suharto government dispensed political patronage and punishment. As one of only three legal political parties during those years, it always won elections, widely viewed as having a preordained outcome, with an overwhelming majority.

In the 1999 elections it won the second highest number of seats in Parliament, eclipsed only by those won by the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle, or PDIP, led by Megawati Sukarnoputri.

Ms. Megawati is now president, having replaced Abdurrahman Wahid last week in a parliamentary ouster. Ms. Megawati is indebted to Golkar for its support of the effort to dismiss Mr. Wahid and needs to maintain that support to hang on to office. It is widely expected that Golkar politicians will be named to several key cabinet posts when the lineup is announced in the next several days.