Archive for Tuesday, July 24, 2001

Indonesia comes full circle as new leader takes power

July 24, 2001

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— President Abdurrahman Wahid tried every political maneuver he knew to stave off impeachment. But after the military ignored his order to shut down the legislature, lawmakers dismissed him and replaced him with Megawati Sukarnoputri eldest daughter of Indonesia's first leader.

Stripped of power and insisting that he had been removed from office unconstitutionally, the Muslim cleric refused Monday to leave the presidential palace, where his successor grew up before her father was deposed.

A street vendor in Jakarta reads a newspaper that proclaims
Megawati Sukarnoputri as the new president of Indonesia. Megawati
was sworn in as head of state on Monday, minutes after the national
assembly dismissed President Abdurrahman Wahid.

A street vendor in Jakarta reads a newspaper that proclaims Megawati Sukarnoputri as the new president of Indonesia. Megawati was sworn in as head of state on Monday, minutes after the national assembly dismissed President Abdurrahman Wahid.

Outside its whitewashed walls, Indonesians could only hope that Megawati, their fourth president in three years, would end the economic ruin and bloody violence that has marred a faltering transition to democracy. Others simply wondered how long she would last as head of state.

"We're just small people. As long as we can provide for ourselves, we don't really care about politics," said Nana Suryana, who sells cigarettes from a street stall.

The capital, Jakarta, was calm after Megawati's uncontested 591-0 victory in the national assembly, Indonesia's supreme legislative body.

There were no major celebrations after her election. Only a few hundred protesters rallied peacefully in front of the palace in support of Wahid, who had warned that his removal from office would trigger bloodshed and national disintegration.

Wahid's next move was not immediately clear. A legal challenge seemed unlikely after the nation's highest court proclaimed that the legislature had the right to impeach him.

Megawati, the eldest daughter of Indonesia's founding father, Sukarno, worked fast to take control over the government of the world's fourth most populous nation.

The new president is adored by millions of poor and middle class Indonesians. Although she had served as Wahid's deputy since 1999, she remains largely untested as a leader.

Apart from identifying herself with her father's nationalism, she has never outlined a strategy to pull Indonesia out of its economic mire. Nor has she said how she would resolve the many ethnic, religious and separatist conflicts that threaten the nation.

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