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Monday, May 11, 1998 Published at 20:29 GMT 21:29 UK




Amien Rais: President Suharto's nemesis?
image: [ Amien Rais: his campaign to replace President Suharto has been boosted by the economic crisis ]
Amien Rais: his campaign to replace President Suharto has been boosted by the economic crisis

The leader of one of the largest Muslim organisations in Indonesia, Amien Rais, has declared plans to assemble a broad opposition grouping to bring down the Indonesian government. But who is he and how much support can he command ? BBC reporters Henry Tang and Nick Childs examine his record.

Amien Rais leads a religious organisation which claims up to 28m members. Earlier this year he said he was willing to take over as president of Indonesia's 200m people if that was what they wanted.

Over the past year, he has become perhaps the most credible of President Suharto's opposition challengers.

The 54-year-old lecturer in politics, with a doctorate from the University of Chicago, is credited by many observers with having clear policies for reform in Indonesia, unlike some other opposition leaders.

Promise of reform

He has made clear that he would open up the political system by repealing laws that ban the formation of new parties and political activities at regional and village level.

And, unlike Megawati Sukarnoputri, the ousted leader of Indonesia's Democratic Party, the PDI, Amien Rais does not arouse too much hostility among senior military commanders.

He has in the past been a member of the government-sponsored Association of Muslim Intellectuals, the ICMI.

According to some analysts, this - and his contacts with elements of the Indonesian military - make the more radical opponents of the government suspicious of him.


[ image: The military may be well disposed to Amien Rais]
The military may be well disposed to Amien Rais
But Mr Rais was thrown out of the ICMI for his increasing criticism of government, and his association with the military may prove an asset if the armed forces feel it necessary to take an increasing hand in the situation.

Some observers say he even has the backing of leading generals who have urged him to keep up his criticisms of President Suharto for the sake of reform.

It is notable that during his speech announcing his plans to bring down the government, Mr Rais referred to lower-ranking soldiers, and said that like workers and the middle-class, they too had suffered because of Indonesia's economic crisis.

His relations with the biggest Muslim group in Indonesia, led by Abdurrahman Wahid, are uncertain.

And although he has developed a fragile alliance with the main opposition figurehead, Megawati Sukarnoputri, commentators say they have little in common in terms of political agenda beyond their opposition to President Suharto.






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In this section

Indonesian Muslim leader says Suharto should go

Amien Rais: President Suharto's nemesis?

I'm not against reform, says Suharto

The seeds of change in Indonesia?

New violence in Indonesia

Indonesian military warns of 'anarchy'