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The BBC's Richard Galpin reports from Jakarta
"There is still some scepticism"
 real 56k

Indonesia specialist, Michael Hitchcock
"Wahid knows he is not in the best of health"
 real 56k

Wednesday, 9 August, 2000, 16:06 GMT 17:06 UK
Wahid steps aside from government
President Wahid and Vice-President Megawati
Wahid says Vice-President Megawati will take charge
Indonesian President Abdurrahman Wahid has announced that the running of his government is being handed to his vice-president, Megawati Sukarnoputri.

He gave the news a day after being harshly criticised by his erstwhile supporters - the Muslim political parties which had put him in power.

In a speech to the country's highest legislative body, the People's Consultative Assembly, the 60-year-old president said that Vice-President Megawati would be responsible for all daily decisions.

An aide wakes up President Wahid in parliament
President Wahid is becoming increasingly frail
"I will charge the vice-president with executing the daily technical tasks, to draw up the cabinet working agenda and to establish the focus and priority of the government," President Wahid said.

He said the decision had been taken in response to proposals made by various political parties in the assembly.

President Wahid also said a cabinet reshuffle in the next few weeks would create a solid, professional team.

And he said Indonesian territory - under pressure from separatist movements - would remain intact.

Wahid's problems
Ailing economy
Separatism - Aceh and Irian Jaya
Religious strife - Moluccas
Weak coalition
The speech had to be read by an aide on behalf of President Wahid, who is increasingly frail, and has problems with his sight.

His spokesman told the BBC he was standing aside in the best interests of the nation.

The immediate reaction of the main political parties was positive.

But the BBC's correspondent in Jakarta, Richard Galpin, says it is not clear whether handing power to Vice-President Megawati will lead to an improvement in the situation.

Apology

In her 10 months in the post she has played a back-seat role in the government, although she had been given responsibility to mediate in the religious conflict in the Moluccan Islands.

President Wahid's announcement came only a day after the assembly's Muslim parties said he had turned out to be worse than his predecessor, President Habibie.

Conditions were getting worse in almost all matters political, social and economic, they said, and the president was mainly to blame.

On Monday he had apologised to the assembly for government failings and offered the cabinet reshuffle.

'Nepotism'

His election last October was greeted with euphoria, but his popularity has plummeted since then.

Many politicians have now turned against him, accusing him of everything from incompetence to lack of consistency, corruption and nepotism.

Very high expectations of political and economic reform were placed on his government, but so far little has been achieved, particularly in terms of economic recovery.

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See also:

21 Jul 00 | Asia-Pacific
Wahid apologises for sacking row
06 Aug 00 | Asia-Pacific
Analysis: Wahid's many problems
09 Aug 00 | Asia-Pacific
Megawati: Out of her father's shadow
07 Aug 00 | Asia-Pacific
Analysis: Indonesia's anaemic revival
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