Page last updated at 15:09 GMT, Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Former Indonesian President Wahid dies

Former Indonesian President Abdurrahman Wahid ( file photo)
Abdurrahman Wahid had been frail for some time and was nearly blind

Former Indonesian President Abdurrahman Wahid has died aged 69, according to party officials.

Wahid, who was often referred to by his nickname Gus Dur, ruled the country between 1999 and 2001.

He was the first elected president after the fall of the 32-year Suharto regime in 1998.

Wahid had been suffering from a number of medical problems in recent years. He was a diabetic and was known to have had a series of strokes.

Short tenure

"Gus Dur just passed away," Lukman Edy from Wahid's National Awakening Party told reporters.

"We lost a great statesman who had dedicated all of his life to the nation, struggling for the sake of those suffering from injustice," his brother Solahuddin Wahid told The Associated Press.

According to local television reports Wahid died of heart failure, but this has not yet been confirmed.

Less than two years after his election, he was a politically isolated man

The partially blind Muslim cleric came to power after defeating Megawati Sukarnoputri, the daughter of founding President Sukarno, in October 1999.

His win was a surprise - Mrs Megawati's party had won far more votes in the legislative polls - and a testament to Wahid's ability to build coalitions with other parties.

He used this skill to try to bring unity in the tumultuous post-Suharto years.

But he not been in the job long before his opponents accused him of failing to tackle the economic crisis, and doing little to resolve the secessionist conflicts in several provinces of Indonesia.

In July 2001, less than two years into the job, he was sacked by the country's national assembly amid unproven allegations of corruption and incompetence.

Educated in Indonesia, Egypt, Iraq and Canada, Wahid had a reputation for religious tolerance and moderate politics.

As well as his prominent political role, he was also a leader of Nahdlatul Ulama, a Muslim group with some 40 million members - and one of the largest independent Islamic organisations in the world.

He suffered several strokes and was confined to a wheelchair in his later years, but despite his fading health he remained an influential figure in politics.

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