President Suharto is facing unprecedented pressure to step down, but the man they call the puppet master may yet survive the catcalls. In Indonesian shadow puppetry the man who holds all the characters and speaks all the voices is called the dalang. But over the past month a discontented audience has become unhappy with how the script has unfolded. Mr Suharto, 76, is coming under pressure from the public and the elite to step out from behind the screen of state, take a bow and exit. But the scenarios for such a political transformation depend more on shifting loyalties among the elite than on people power. Observers now speak of a political alliance between opposition figure Megawati Sukarnoputri and powerful Muslim leaders Amien Rais and Abdurrahman Wahid, which would have the power to call up to 70 million people on to the street to voice their discontent against the Government. But a Filipino-style 'people power' revolt looks unlikely, with Mr Suharto maintaining a firm grip on the military and, unlike the Philippines - which has the Catholic Church - no national institution to organise dissident voices. There are rumblings of a split in the military between a pro-Suharto camp and an Islamic element led by younger officers who want to see a more professional Army. There has been no public evidence of the division and some say it is wishful thinking to imagine the military turning on Mr Suharto. A coup seems out of the question. It may be more appropriate to consider 'shopping power'. Public discontent over price increases, reduced buying power, mass lay-offs, shrinking credit and mistrust of the banks are now key concerns for the President. Another scenario could see Mr Suharto accept a 'national dialogue' before the People's Consultative Assembly meets in March. 'The new Muslim-nationalist alliance may call on the Government to open up policy issues for negotiation and input into who should be in the next Cabinet,' said analyst Umar Juoro, a key adviser to Mr Rais. This option would allow Mr Suharto to limp home for a seventh term and then select the successor of his choice to protect the business interests of his family. Indonesia's dalang might prefer this Singapore-style arrangement, where the great statesman rules from home, tending to his parrots and Harley-Davidson motorbike.