15 Jul 2011

Wahid's presidency

Wahid's presidency

The Indonesian leader, B J Habibie, withdrew from the presidential race in October 1999 after he lost a key vote in the top legislature. The presidency went to Abdurrahman Wahid, leader of the National Awakening Party (PKB), and a moderate Muslim in poor health. By a remarkable 373 votes to 313, MPs voted him president of Indonesia. Wahid, a scholar best known by his nickname ‘Gus Dur’, had secured the support of some of those who had earlier backed the outgoing president. Many had expected Megawati Sukarnoputri, whose party won the parliamentary elections in July, to win and her surprise defeat in the presidential election provoked violence in Jakarta. She was elected vice-president and, as Wahid called for unity and more equal sharing of wealth, protests and rioting petered out across the country.Wahid formed his cabinet and pledged to work for national economic recovery. The new cabinet balanced radical reformers with allies of the former dictator, Suharto. In February 2000 President Wahid replaced his powerful military chief, General Wiranto, with a civilian, stating Wiranto's alleged role in atrocities in East Timor as the reason. Wiranto remained in the cabinet as coordinating minister for security.

The new Indonesian government under Abdurrahman Wahid declared in November 1999 that it was willing to allow a referendum, but it was unclear whether it would be about independence or the introduction of Islamic law.

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