July 20, 2001, 4:30pm EST
Leaders in Indonesia's People's Consultative Assembly say impeachment proceedings against embattled President Abdurrahman Wahid will begin tomorrow -- 11 days earlier than originally planned.
Regional analysts widely expect Wahid to be removed from office during the proceedings.
The assembly is hastening impeachment proceedings against Wahid following his repeated threats to declare a state of emergency, which would allow him to dissolve parliament and call for early elections.
Wahid said today he would announce a state of emergency on July 31, a day before impeachment hearings were originally scheduled to begin, if the political climate did not improve.
"Up to now, we have not reached a political compromise needed to overcome the political crisis," Wahid said. "Therefore, we have to prepare to implement a state of emergency on 31 July at [6:00 pm local time] if there is no compromise."
The president's declaration came despite statements from the 700-member assembly -- Indonesia's highest political body -- that they would ignore a dissolution decree. The national police have also said that they would not enforce his emergency order.
Assembly chairman Amien Rais accused Wahid of abusing the constitution during his 21 months in power. He said Wahid will be asked to deliver a speech on Monday to address the accusations against him, including constitutional violations, corruption, and incompetence.
But some legislators say the decision to remove Wahid has already been made. The task now, they say, is to finish the process without sparking protests.
“The problem now is how to get rid of Gus Dur [a nickname for Wahid] without humiliating him,” Jusuf Wanandi, head of the Jakarta-based Center for Strategic and International Studies, said in an interview with Newsweek. “We have to handle him honorably, decently and not needlessly provoke him or his supporters.”
If Wahid is removed from office, Vice President Megawati Sukarnoputri, a popular politician and daughter of Indonesia's founding president, will succeed him.
|Charges and protests|
When Wahid became Indonesia's first democratically-elected president in 1999, lawmakers hoped the popular Muslim cleric could unite a nation of diverse cultures, languages and religions. Now many of those same lawmakers are working to remove him from power.
Through two censure motions, the 500-member parliament has accused Wahid of embezzling $4.1 million in state funds and illegally accepting $2 million from the Sultan of Brunei.
Wahid, 61, has steadfastly denied wrongdoing in either case, insisting the $4.1 million was stolen by his personal masseur and the $2 million paid for humanitarian relief in the country's war-torn province of Aceh.
Indonesian Attorney-General Marzuki Darusman cleared Wahid of all charges in May, but Indonesian law allows the legislature to continue impeachment proceedings against him.
Meanwhile, the country's economy remains on shaky ground. Indonesia's currency, the rupiah, has slipped to a value of 11,244 against the U.S. dollar. When Wahid assumed office in October 1999, it traded at 6,800 to the dollar.
"The people's lives are worsening, the market and donor institutions have lost confidence, the rupiah is losing its value, unemployment is increasing, and prices are going up," said Evita Asmalda, a representative of the Golkar Party, in an interview with the New York Times. The Golkar Party's lawmakers are backing the move to oust Wahid.
|The 'silent majority'|
Some lawmakers see Wahid's recent efforts to reorganize his government as a sign that he is growing more desperate to hang onto power.
In an example of such a shuffle, Wahid has moved to sack the veteran police chief, Suroyo Bimantoro, because he refused to support Wahid's state of emergency threats. Wahid appointed a replacement, but Bimantoro has refused to step down and parliament has said it will not confirm his successor.
Wahid called for Bimantoro's arrest July 12, but police and cabinet members refused to comply with the order.
In the past 90 days, he has fired several other government officials, including the attorney general and his finance and security ministers.
"The reshuffle is an indication that the president is well and truly panicked," deputy parliament speaker Soetardjo Soerjogoeritno told The Jakarta Post.
But Wahid claims his power originates from the people and, he says, they support him.
"As [former U.S. President Richard] Nixon said, the silent majority is with me," Wahid told The Washington Post May 13. "You should go with me to the countryside. Lines of people wait on the roadsides to see me."
Thousands of citizens have protested each official parliamentary action against Wahid, the most violent protests occurring in his home province of East Java.
Wahid has warned that a decision to impeach him could lead to widespread violence, especially among the 30 million members of Nahdlatul Ulama, the Muslim organization he headed until his election in 1999.
Moreover, Wahid says his departure from office would cause the nation of more than 17,000 islands to break apart.
"If I step down, five provinces will proclaim their independence," Wahid said in May. "If this is perceived as a bluff, it is not."