Gus Dur looks to strike deal with rivals

PRESIDENT Abdurrahman Wahid was yesterday desperately looking for ways to strike a deal with his political rivals in power as he dug in his heels to fight off attempts to topple him.

With his own Nation Awakening Party (PKB) conceding that impeachment was now a possibility after Parliament censured him on Monday, the Indonesian leader held crisis talks with his trusted aides and ministers to find a way out of the impasse.

Resigning was still the last thing on his mind, well-placed sources said, adding that he continued to insist that it was his constitutional right to serve out his term until 2004.

The Straits Times understands that one of the options being considered was actually an old idea – power sharing with his hugely-popular deputy, Ms Megawati Sukarnoputri.

Sources said that he had indicated he wanted to have “a heart-to-heart talk” with her to support him until 2004. In return, he would form a new Cabinet and allow her to run day-to-day government while he remained as a state head.

Asked by reporters yesterday whether ties with his Vice-President had soured and if she was preparing to take over, the 60-year-old leader, who looked tired and restless, said: “Let people talk, but there is nothing happening.”

Mr Abdurrahman refused to comment whether he would quit, but said he would “make a statement in one or two days”. Research and Technology Minister A.S. Hikam, who met him on Monday night, said that he had rejected the censure outright.

“The President said that he could not accept the second memorandum because it comes across as a judgment on the performance of his government, and therefore, without substance,” local media reports yesterday quoted him as saying.

But with a special session of the People’s Consultative Assembly (MPR) looming, his party was pushing for a deal to be worked out with his opponents.

PKB chairman Matori Abdul Jalil said there was enough time for Mr Abdurrahman to talk to opposing political leaders to find a solution.

The opposition is in no mood to talk, however. Parliamentary Speaker Akbar Tandjung said yesterday that it was impossible for Mr Abdurrahman to stay on.

“I don’t know what the President can do about it, but theoretically, it is hopeless,” he told reporters.

Legislators said they would prefer the President to step down now than go all the way to the MPR. The power-sharing idea with Ms Megawati was also a no-go with several parliamentarians, who described it as “passe”.

Political observers believe that his only card left was to resort to muscle politics. But that too, is wearing thin, with a poor turnout of his supporters in the capital over the last few days.

But with the thugs out of the way, it was business as usual in Jakarta. However, troops and armoured cars were still conspicuously present at different points in the city.

The rupiah appeared to bounce back with this illusive peace. It strengthened 5.5 per cent to 10,920 against the US dollar, its biggest gain since October 1999.

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