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Thursday, 17 May, 2001, 17:02 GMT 18:02 UK
Wahid: Gauging the public mood
President Wahid
Abdurrahman Wahid has only been in power for 18 month
By Richard Galpin in Jakarta

Almost exactly three years after the downfall of former President Suharto of Indonesia, the country is once again in the midst of a deep political crisis.


The trust of the people is not there any more

Alvin Lie, opposition MP
The first democratically elected president, Abdurrahman Wahid, who came to power just 18 months ago, now stands on the verge of being impeached by parliament.

President Wahid's supporters have been out on the streets of the capital, demanding parliament drop its plans. Some said there would be a bloodbath if the president were forced out of office.

But it was all to no avail.

Determined

Inside the parliament building, MPs from almost all the main political parties lashed out at the president for failing to heed earlier warnings over alleged corruption and the performance of his government.

Anti-Wahid protest
There have been calls for Mr Wahid to go
They passed by a massive majority a second censure motion.

Opposition MPs such as Alvin Lie, says the president should now opt for a graceful exit.

"The trust of the people is not there any more," he says.


He should have the opportunity to finish his term in office

Wahid supporter
All this is the result of a parliamentary investigation led by Alvin Lie into two cases of alleged corruption involving millions of dollars in which the president has been implicated.

He has strongly denied any involvement. And the parliamentary inquiry failed to find any conclusive proof. The charges have now been dropped.

But this no longer seems to matter. A majority of MPs are now determined to get rid of him for his perceived incompetence.

Fading support

Jacob Tobing is a senior member of the largest political party - the Indonesian democratic party of struggle which has now turned decisively against the president.

n indigenous Dayak burns possessions left behind by fleeing Madurese settlers, central Kalimantan province, on Borneo Island,
Indonesia has seen many outbursts of ethnic and religious violence
"He's a good man in the wrong place," he says. "He has to be removed from his office."

It certainly has been an extremely rocky ride for Indonesia under President Wahid's leadership.

This massive and disparate island nation has lurched from crisis to crisis - besides political conflict, there have been outbursts of ethnic and religious violence as well as separatist conflicts in the outer provinces.

Whilst Mr Wahid cannot be blamed for many of these problems, he is accused of failing to focus on resolving them.

Mixed opinion

Doug Ramage of the Asia Foundation in Jakarta believes expectations of President Wahid were always too high, as he did not have a strong electoral mandate.

Besides losing the support of parliament President Wahid also appears to have alienated the military - the once all-powerful institution that backed the authoritarian regime of Suharto. Although their political power has now been much reduced, the generals remain influential.

They seem particularly unhappy with President Wahid's attempts to negotiate with the separatist movements in the far-flung provinces of Aceh and Irian Jaya. This they say has only encouraged the struggle for independence.

Vice President Megawati Sukarnoputri
In the wings - Vice President Megawati Sukarnoputri
And yet despite all the pressure now on him Mr Wahid's spokesman, Wimar Witoelar, says the president has no intention of stepping down.

"No he will not resign unless he committed a crime," he says.

On the streets of Jakarta, opinions among ordinary people about how this crisis can be resolved seem to be mixed

"President Wahid should resign from the presidency because people nowadays do not like him anymore," says one man.

But other people say the president should be left to do his job.

"We can't judge whether someone can rebuild this country in one or two years," says one woman. "He should have the opportunity to finish his term in office."

Senior government ministers have been desperately trying to reach a compromise with parliament before. One possibility involves Mr Wahid handing over almost all his powers to Vice-President Megawati Sukarnoputri.

The fear is that without some kind of compromise, the conflict could get out of hand - as has happened so many times before in Indonesia.

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See also:

15 May 01 | Asia-Pacific
Defiant Wahid 'will run again'
31 Jan 01 | Asia-Pacific
Wahid claims support of deputy
11 May 01 | Asia-Pacific
Wahid raises the stakes
01 May 01 | Business
Indonesia reaches crisis point
02 May 01 | Asia-Pacific
Wahid ignores parliament censure
08 Dec 00 | Business
Indonesia bank chief in forgery row
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