Impeach Gus Dur – Parliament backs move

WHAT NEXT FOR PRESIDENT? 3 scenarios

1 OUSTED ON AUG 8 The People’s Consultative Assembly (MPR) can convene a special session to remove Mr Abdurrahman Wahid eight or nine weeks from now. This can be held as early as Aug 7.

2 BECOMES NOMINAL HEAD If a political compromise is struck, Mr Abdurrahman could be named nominal head of state while all governing powers are transferred to Ms Megawati Sukarnoputri.

3 STILL IN CHARGE If emergency rule is declared, President Abdurrahman stays in charge but the MPR can still call for impeachment.

Filibuster by President’s party of supporters fails to prevent huge vote in favour of his departure from office

JAKARTA – President Abdurrahman Wahid lost the fight to stave off impeachment after an overwhelming majority of legislators formally backed the move yesterday.

In less than two months, he could be stripped of his position by the highest legislative body to pave the way for his deputy and ally-turned-enemy Megawati Sukarnoputri to become Indonesia’s fifth president since independence.

A total of 365 out of 408 lawmakers voted for a special impeachment session. Thirty-nine abstained, most of them from the armed forces. Four members from the smaller factions rejected the special session.

Mr Abdurrahman’s National Awakening Party (PKB), which holds 51 seats, staged a dramatic walkout during the vote. The outcome leaves little doubt of Mr Abdurrahman’s departure. It has also sparked fears in the weeks leading up to his

“Waterloo” that he might invoke emergency rule against a backdrop of bloody violence by his supporters. The President’s fate was sealed after seven out of 10 parliamentary factions called for impeachment.

PKB had earlier attempted to throw a spanner in the works by contesting the legality of the session. But the PKB’s filibuster could not withstand the political onslaught.

Leading the charge was the Indonesian Democratic Party-Struggle (PDI-P), headed by Ms Megawati, and Golkar, two of the largest factions in Parliament. The PDI-P demanded that he be made accountable for mismanaging the country and even encouraging Indonesia’s break-up. Said party spokesman Sophan Sophian:

“This is not what a president should do. He should protect the citizens and not encourage separatism.”

Ms Evita Asmalda of Golkar, echoing the sentiments of other factions, said that Mr Abdurrahman had ignored the censure that the House of Representatives passed last month.

The embattled Mr Abdurrahman was not present in the tightly-guarded Parliament yesterday. He was hosting a meeting of leaders from developing countries with Ms Megawati.

Ms Megawati was all smiles, chatting with photographers, while her incumbent looked despondent.

In a letter read to Parliament by his aide, he rejected the censures, arguing that they had failed to clarify how he had violated his oath of office. Legislators also received a report from the Attorney-General’s Office clearing him of any wrongdoing in the Bruneigate and Bulogate scandals.

Most of the factions, however, just brushed it aside, saying that his fate hinged on politics now, not criminal law.

But Mr Abdurrahman was still not giving up. He summoned several of his advisersto the palace yesterday and threatened emergency rule. Palace and military sources told The Straits Times that not all his advisers supported the plan, especially Security Minister Bambang Yudhoyono.

A palace official said: “Gus Dur doesn’t care whether his ministers quit on him … He also doesn’t care whether Mega or the military supports him; he says that what is important is that he still has the people’s support.”

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