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Monday, 23 July, 2001, 09:21 GMT 10:21 UK
Indonesian military holds key to power
Indonesian marines
The military rejected Wahid's order to dissolve parliament
By the BBC's Peter Hiett

Abdurrahman Wahid became Indonesian president against the odds.

Frail and half-blind, his power-base - the Muslim organisation his father had created - was not even the biggest party in parliament. But, crucially, he did not attract the hostility aroused by his main opponent - Megawati Sukarnoputri - the daughter of Indonesia's founding President Sukarno.

The armed forces in particular were wary of her - they had after all overthrown her father in 1966, through General Suharto, and were perhaps expecting her to seek revenge.

Indonesian troops heading for Aceh
Indonesian troops have failed to quell separatist rebels in Aceh province

But it was Mr Wahid who set about snubbing the armed forces.

He moved the armed forces chief sideways, against his will, as part of an attempt to exert political control over the army. This was a shock to the generals, who had been used to exerting political control over the government and the nation.

Crucially again, Mr Wahid adopted a softer line towards separatist movements in the teeth of fierce opposition from the armed forces, which see themselves as guarantors of Indonesian national unity.

Corruption claims

But as time went by Mr Wahid found himself accused of incompetence and corruption - though on a far smaller scale than his predecessors - and parliament began moving to impeach him.

Megawati Sukarnoputri
The armed forces toppled Megawati's father in 1966

By now, Mrs Megawati had clearly won the confidence of the armed forces, and her challenges to the president's authority were becoming ever more blatant.

As his political support ebbed away, the president's political manoeuvrings became more desperate: reshuffling his cabinet and making none-too-veiled threats of violence by his hundreds of thousands of supporters.

His statement in the early hours of Monday morning sets the scene for a naked power play over the question of who holds political authority - the president or parliament.

The armed forces will answer that question by deciding who they will support. And that suggests that once again, final power in Indonesia has returned to the generals who have been running and plundering the country for most of the past 40 years.

See also:

23 Jul 01 | Asia-Pacific
Wahid faces imminent dismissal
20 Jul 01 | Asia-Pacific
Wahid appoints new police chief
16 Jul 01 | Asia-Pacific
Wahid faces early impeachment
13 Jul 01 | Asia-Pacific
Armed police defy Wahid
12 Jul 01 | Asia-Pacific
Police feud symbolic of chaos
31 May 01 | Asia-Pacific
Analysis: Indonesia's power vacuum
30 May 01 | Asia-Pacific
Analysis: Testing Indonesia's democracy
21 Jul 01 | Asia-Pacific
Indonesia's political turmoil
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