Gus Dur buys time with power-sharing deal

Indonesian President Abdurrahman Wahid, refusing to buckle under the weight of growing opposition to his rule, yesterday held out in desperate hope that his influential deputy would accept a power-sharing deal to save him.

Against a backdrop of veiled threats from the palace to declare emergency rule and disband Parliament, he secured some breathing space when a key aide of Ms Megawati Sukarnoputri said that she had yet to make up her mind on the proposal that would give her substantive executive powers.

Mr Bambang Kesowo, the Vice-President’s private secretary, said she was still studying the implications of the peace plan. He said time was needed to study the legal aspects of the deal where she would run day-to-day government.

Observers said the key consideration was if the plan violated the Constitution. According to the law books, power resides almost entirely in the hands of the President and some argue the proposal would require a major constitutional revision. The Vice-President, who is seen as the key to Gus Dur’s survival, was presented with the power-sharing option during crisis talks on Friday. Senior party leaders said she would not accept the offer, saying that it was “unconstitutional”.

Mr Sujipto, secretary-general of the Indonesian Democratic Party-Struggle (PDI-P) which is lead by Ms Megawati, said the party was divided on whether to accept the compromise.

But party sources said yesterday that the balance was now very much in favour of those who wanted the President impeached.

He said the Vice-President had already decided that she could not stop the constitutional process that appeared heading towards a special session. But she was also concerned about openly embarrassing him.

He said: “It is not the normal Javanese practice do so. She has already made up her mind about him but is playing a waiting game.”

That “waiting game” did not preclude continued meetings with other party members to try and end the political gridlock. Parliamentary Speaker Akbar Tandjung is due to meet her for talks this week, with sources saying the PDI-P and Golkar would take the lead next week in calling for a special session of the People’s Consultative Assembly.

Most party chiefs have indicated they would push for impeachment proceedings against Gus Dur. The President yesterday warned that Indonesia risked civil unrest and breaking up if his enemies toppled him.

He continued to fuel uncertainty by issuing a veiled threat – for the first time in public – that he would declare emergency rule and dissolve Parliament if legislators went ahead with impeachment.

Sources said several Cabinet members led by Security Minister General Bambang Yudhoyono met the President late last night to talk him out of imposing emergency rule.

A senior Cabinet Minister said: “He agreed this time. But he continues to insist that it is his prerogative. He told us that if all else fails, he will declare a state of emergency because he still thinks Indonesians are behind him.”

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