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Friday, 22 October, 1999, 17:39 GMT 18:39 UK
Analysis: Indonesia's dream ticket?
Megawati and Wahid: a presidency of equals?
Megawati and Wahid: a presidency of equals?
By the BBC's Richard Galpin in Jakarta

After the outburst of violence on Wednesday and Thursday, calm has returned to Indonesia with the election of the popular opposition figure Megawati Sukarnoputri as the country's vice-president.

Indonesia Flashpoints
Her supporters appear to have been placated by the news that she is to have a role in the new government despite her humiliating defeat in Wednesday's presidential vote.

Many had worried that her party, the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle, which spearheaded resistance to the authoritarian rule of former President Suharto, would be totally excluded from the new administration.

But in the end, after being nominated as a candidate in the election for vice-president, she won by a comfortable margin of more than 100 votes in the People's Consultative Assembly - the country's highest legislative body.

Within hours of the result being announced, thousands of her fanatically-loyal supporters were out celebrating in the streets of Jakarta where just 24 hours previously they had been fighting running battles with the security forces.

Strong government

Already Megawati has made it clear that she does not intend being a purely ceremonial figure despite serving as deputy to President Abdurrahman Wahid.

Megawati is sworn in as vice-president
Megawati is sworn in as vice-president
Her acceptance speech in the assembly on Thursday night was one which could equally have been delivered by the president himself.

She pledged to establish a strong government, free of corruption and to ensure that the judiciary becomes fully independent.

She also called on the nation to unite behind the new government.

'Very close'

Despite this forthright approach to her new job as vice-president, which has traditionally been a low-key post, members of her party are playing down speculation that there will be tension between President Abdurrahman and Vice-President Megawati.

"There is a very close relationship between Abdurrahman Wahid and Megawati," said one official, "their positions are not important, they can divide the work."

Megawati's supporters were shocked by her presidential defeat
Megawati's supporters were shocked by her presidential defeat
It is certainly true they have a long-standing friendship, which may have been strained by the fight for the presidency but does not seem to have been destroyed.

Instead the combination of these two leading figures as president and vice-president is being describing by some observers as the "dream ticket" for Indonesia as the country passes through one of the most critical phases in its history.

Abdurrahman Wahid, or Gus Dur as he is known, is the first Muslim leader in the world's most populous Muslim country.

He is also a reformer and a passionate advocate of religious and ethnic tolerance.

Megawati, on the other hand, represents the secular and nationalist streams within Indonesian society as well as liberal Muslims and religous minorities.

Different strengths

While Megawati is regarded as being an inexperienced and aloof political leader, Gus Dur is clearly a wily politician, good at cutting back-room deals with different political factions.

Between them it is therefore hoped they will be able to pull together the different strands of Indonesian society which in recent years have become increasingly divided.

The first major task ahead of them is the appointment of a new cabinet which is likely to include a mix of politicians from different parties as well as civil servants and technocrats.

Once that is done then the formidable task of governing Indonesia will begin, with a huge agenda of political and economic reform before the two leaders.

Links to more Asia-Pacific stories are at the foot of the page.


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