Indonesia: Megawati Replaces Sacked Wahid

ByABC News
July 23, 2001, 8:19 AM

J A K A R T A, Indonesia, July 23 -- Indonesian lawmakers today elected Megawati Sukarnoputri, daughter of the country'sfounding leader, as the fourth president in as many turbulent years, sacking her disgraced predecessor for incompetence.

The supreme People's Consultative Assembly (MPR) dumped Abdurrahman Wahid just hours after he declared a state of emergency and tried to dissolve the legislature in a desperatepre-dawn bid to hold on to power.

As the MPR decided his fate, Wahid was holed up behind razor-wire barricades in the colonial-era presidential palace, where aides said he laughed and joked over a lunch of soybeansand fruit and refused to leave.

The world's fourth-most populous nation, ruled by autocratsfor most of its history, has never had a peaceful transition ofpower. But there were no immediate signs of unrest today.

After taking the oath of office, Megawati read aseven-minute speech urging all sides to accept her election.

"I call on all parties to accept this democratic process...this is the voice of the people which we must uphold," shesaid, dressed in a traditional white blouse and a batik sarong.

"Let us build our country together ... let us erase all thefights among us which have only deepened the sorrow of thepeople."

Wahids Response Unclear

But it is unclear how Wahid will be forced from the palace.His aides have said he will refuse to stand aside.

And a big question mark also hangs over Megawati's ownabilities and those of her new team, which her aides say maynot be named for up to a week.

Megawati's party won the most votes in the 1999parliamentary election but is still well short of a majority.

Like Wahid, she will be forced to rely on an inherentlyunstable series of alliances to serve out her term to 2004.

The leadership crisis which has paralysed the nation formonths has stoked fears of a return of the bloodshed thatsurrounded the downfall of former autocrat Suharto in 1998.