President Suharto tried to serve up what those close to him had been working on for days: a dignified retreat from Asia's longest dictatorship. No one playing the ultra-polite chess game of politics in the shadow of Mr Suharto's 32-year rule wanted to tell him the inevitable: old man, it is time to go. Insiders said cultural conventions surrounding Mr Suharto's fatherly image were so great that even his own military chief and former adjutant, the increasingly populist General Wiranto, would never directly tell him to resign. Instead, a collective grew among army factions, the opposition and his own ruling Golkar Party. The statement from Harmoko - Mr Suharto's close friend, Golkar chairman and House Speaker - suggesting that he consider 'wisely resigning' was backed by parliamentary leaders. It also came on the day that students occupied the grounds of parliament. It was also a view likely to be canvassed gently with the President's aides beforehand. The actions of the students were hardly spontaneous. Most arrived in trucks and buses arranged by the Army and were peacefully escorted through the gates. Even Mr Suharto's fiercest critics played a part in keeping mounting pressure from degenerating into a witch-hunt. 'We must not Marcos-ise Suharto,' said Amien Rais, the outspoken leader of the 28-million Muhammadiyah Muslim group. However, beneath the air of almost secretive civility lies continuing fear. First, Jakarta citizens who showed their desperation so violently last week will still have to swallow political developments. Then there are days, weeks and possibly months of vacuum as various factions fight to fill a void that has not existed for 32 years. In such a tense arena, all eyes are on the military, particularly the relationship between General Wiranto and his younger, ambitious strategic force commander, Lieutenant-General Prabowo Subianto. General Prabowo is married to President Suharto's youngest daughter and has 40,000 crack troops at his command. It is his tanks, armoured personnel carriers and artillery pieces that have fortified the capital during the past three days.