Indonesia's Embattled Wahid Outmaneuvers Himself

Category: Life & Society Views: 977

A chronology of the Indonesian president's 19 months in power

Oct 20: Wahid, a Muslim scholar, is elected president by the 700-strong People's Consultative Assembly (MPR), defeating Megawati Sukarnoputri in a ballot. Megawati's defeat sparks angry reactions from her supporters, who rampage on the streets as soon as the result was known.
Oct 21: Megawati elected vice president by the MPR, the upper house.
Oct 26: Wahid appoints a 35-member "rainbow" or "unity" cabinet.
Oct 27: The new government reopens a corruption probe into former president Suharto.
Nov 1: Wahid offers Suharto a pardon if he is found guilty of corruption.
Nov 4: Wahid says rebellious Aceh province has the right to "an East Timor-style" referendum.
Nov 18: Wahid irks parliament by likening MPs to kindergarten children.

Feb 1: Wahid, on a visit to London, calls on security minister Wiranto to resign from the cabinet over his involvement in East Timor violence, dismissing him 12 days later.
Feb 24: The physically frail Wahid cancels all appointments after contracting influenza, sending jitters through the financial markets.
March 14: Wahid accuses some military officers of conspiring against him.
April 24: Wahid orders two of his economic ministers to resign.
April 26: The Indonesian rupiah passes the 8,000-mark against the dollar as its free-fall continues following the political turmoil.
May 10: The president's youngest brother, Hasyim Wahid, is appointed to join the bank restructuring agency, sparking accusations of cronyism.
May 12: Indonesia and separatist rebels in Aceh sign a truce.
May 24: Wahid asks police to arrest his former masseur for allegedly using his name to embezzle 4.1 million dollars from Bulog (the state logistics agency).
June 15: Police seek to question Wahid over the Bulog scam.
June 28: Parliament warns Wahid to put overseas trips on hold because he had used up most of his travel allowance.
July 1: Wahid accuses several MPs of being behind the violent unrest and problems that have beset the country in the past two years.
July 20: Wahid answers a summons from parliament, but refuses to explain why he fired two ministers in April.
July 21: Wahid apologizes, says he will talk to committee behind closed doors.
July 29: Thousands gather in Jakarta in mass show of support for Wahid.
Aug 7: Wahid tells the national assembly (MPR) annual session he will reshuffle his cabinet and take a back seat to Megawati.
Aug 9: Wahid bows to intense pressure and pledges to hand responsibility for the day-to-day running of the government to Megawati.
Aug 19: The lower house says it will probe the Bulogate and Bruneigate scandals, the latter involving the receipt of a two million dollar gift from the Sultan of Brunei.
Oct 20: Police arrest Wahid's former masseur Alip Agung Suwondo for his alleged role in the Bulogate scandal.
Oct 28: Police clear Wahid of involvement in the Bulog scandal.
Nov 27: House speaker calls on Wahid to explain an October 14 meeting with fugitive son of former president Suharto.

Jan 30: Parliament committee finds Wahid "may have been" implicated in Bruneigate and Bulogate, but offers no proof. Wahid denies guilt.
Feb 1: Parliament censures Wahid over Bruneigate and Bulogate, gives him three months to reply, or face a second censure. The military and Megawati's party support the censure.
March 15: Thousands of Wahid supporters rally at parliament.
March 19: Wahid sacks forestry minister Nurmahmudi Ismail for disloyalty.
March 28: Wahid replies to parliament over censure.
April 29: Thousands of Wahid supporters rally in Jakarta and East Java.
April 30: Parliament votes to censure Wahid for a second time.
May 15: Megawati says Wahid is not interested in power sharing.
May 19: Army warns Wahid not to declare emergency or dissolve parliament.
May 22: Wahid says he will not replace military chiefs.
May 28: Wahid warns of emergency.
Attorney general says no evidence against Wahid in two scandals.
May 29: Wahid sends belated censure reply to house. Violent pro-Wahid
demonstrations in East Java
May 30: Parliament votes to ask the national assembly to hold an impeachment session. One Wahid loyalist is killed in a police shooting in East Java.

JAKARTA, May 30 (AFP) - Indonesia's President Abdurrahman Wahid, who on Wednesday lost the first round of his battle against impeachment, is a liberal democrat who fell victim to the same tactics he used to survive three decades of dictatorship.

The respected 60-year-old Muslim scholar, who has fought parliament for much of his brief 19-month term, has tarnished his own democratic credentials, perhaps fatally, in scrambling to stop the impeachment process.

In the past weeks Wahid has threatened to impose emergency rule, dissolve parliament, and has courted the very politicians he had warned would tear the country apart if they took over.

He has also alienated his Vice President Megawati Sukarnoputri, who stands to replace him and whose support is crucial, saying publicly she would be incapable of ruling alone.

Indonesian President Abdurrahman Wahid (C), accompanied by his daughter Zanubah Chafsyoh (R) and his adjutant (L) arrive at the Jakarta Hilton Convention Center 30 May 2001, to attend the G-15 meeting. The Indonesian parliament has voted to continue a key session which could pave the way towards impeaching President Abdurrahman Wahid.

The Wahid of today is, for most Indonesians, a tragic disappointment and a sad descent from one of the key figures who helped ensure the fall of former dictator Suharto in 1998.

Wahid's last-minute candidacy that led to him becoming the country's first democratically elected president in October 1999 was welcomed then, when he was seen as an acceptable leader who could keep the country united.

But since that time the clinically blind president, facing enormous odds in keeping the reform drive alive and the reformists with him, has been unable to unite even his own allies.

Instead, analysts say, the tactics that served him well in the back seat did not work under the glare of publicity with real power to be wielded.

His endless deal making, playing off one group against another, which had enabled him and his Nahdlatul Ulama Muslim movement to survive the Suharto years has alienated friend and foe alike.

In addition his constant globe-trotting amid dire crises and his penchant for biting remarks, which at first kept the fractious Jakarta elite off balance, has increasingly been labeled fiddling while Rome burns.

Wahid continuously shoots himself in the foot, even his most ardent supporters agree.

With the president's gratuitous insults over the political limitations of his old friend Megawati, he seemed to forget that much of his power rested on Megawati's grass-roots popularity and that her legacy as the daughter of the country's nationalist founding president Sukarno was crucial.

Megawati's Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDIP) won the 1999 general elections and holds the largest number of seats in parliament.

Wahid's party, by comparison, holds only a handful of seats in the 500-seat house that is now bent on ousting him.

Also waiting in the wings is Suharto's old political party, the Golkar, which polled second in the 1999 elections and which Wahid supporters say has been getting up to its old tricks to frustrate the president.

Wahid's bitter relations with parliament have scuttled many of his reform efforts.

"The people's lives are worsening, the market and donor institutions have lost confidence, the rupiah is losing its value, unemployment is increasing and prices going up," said Golkar MP Evita Asmalda.

Wahid's lauded efforts to cut the old tycoons and Suharto's rapacious children down to size, bring them to court and stem the endemic corruption that still drains government coffers, swiftly unraveled.

Rumors spread of corruption in the presidential palace, fuelled by a national press stung by incidents of intimidation, and parliament seized on Wahid's possible involvement in two financial scandals as a basis to censure him.

His efforts to talk to separatist rebels in the provinces of Aceh and Irian Jaya came to nothing. The military have now returned to Aceh and a crackdown is underway in Irian.

The military, which has since Suharto's fall been pushed out of politics, has been able to regain unity under the relentless attacks it had endured.

For the first time, the military has stood up to the president, warning him against declaring a state of emergency that would enable him to dissolve the parliament.

  Category: Life & Society
Views: 977
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