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Web-only Exclusives
November 30, 2000

From Our Correspondent: Hirohito and the War
A conversation with biographer Herbert Bix

From Our Correspondent: A Rough Road Ahead
Bad news for the Philippines - and some others

From Our Correspondent: Making Enemies
Indonesia needs friends. So why is it picking fights?

Asiaweek Time Asia Now Asiaweek story

WHO'S THE NEXT BOSS?


FOR YEARS THE QUESTION echoed, "After Suharto, what?" Now the parlor game has turned serious but the answer is still elusive; the president never allowed a clear heir or strong rival to emerge. One problem is that Indonesian politics plays out in an arena more like a royal court than a nation state - personal motives and ties can carry more weight than laws and institutions - making actions unpredictable. In the coming struggle to balance change and stability, these figures will play key roles.

GEN. WIRANTO

The armed forces chief is a curious mix - a professional soldier and Suharto protege but conciliatory to student protesters and maybe open to change - who plays his cards close to his chest. While his failure to protect Jakarta from riots tarnished him, the 51-year-old four-star general remains respected. But he has to fend off Lt.-Gen. Prabowo if he wants to be the man to carry on dwi fungsi, the "dual function" principle that gives the army a political role.

AMIEN RAIS

Head of the 28-million-strong Muslim group Muhammadiyah, Rais, 54, has been Suharto's most direct critic, even standing for the presidency. He once said only the "monetary coup d'état" of a deteriorating economy could bring Suharto down - now he sees an opportunity and has formed the Council for the People's Mandate, grouping over 50 opposition figures. A canny politician gaining increasing popularity, his profile will rise if he continues to ride the discontent.

LT.-GEN. PRABOWO SUBIANTO

The 46-year-old three-star general commands the strategic reserve forces that were Suharto's springboard to power, and also happens to be Suharto's son-in-law. His frank style marks him out from other officers and feeds speculation that politics beckon. Prabowo's link to Suharto makes many distrust him but his loyalties are unclear. He has taken a much harder line with protesters than Wiranto, and a split in the army would almost certainly pit them against each other.

ABDURRAHMAN WAHID

Troubled by failing eyesight, the 57-year-old's health worsened in January when he was hospitalized with a blood clot on his brain. Since then Wahid (a.k.a. Gus Dur) has been eclipsed by Amien Rais as the nation's Muslim voice, but retains clout as head of the 30-million-strong Nahdlatul Ulama. Wahid is a gradualist and strictly neutral - an ally of oppositionist Megawati Sukarnoputri, he still shared a stage with Suharto's daughter Tutut while pushing for reform.

MEGAWATI SUKARNOPUTRI

The daughter of Sukarno has always been more symbol than substance. Megawati was identified by Suharto as a potential enemy and ousted as head of the Indonesian Democratic Party (PDI) two years ago. That made her the focus of anti-Suharto sentiment, a mantle the cautious 50-year-old wears uneasily. Popular with students and the lower-middle class but unlikely to reach for the top, her strength lies in her ability to deliver public support to an ally.

EMIL SALIM

He calls himself a mere "change agent" rather than a political contender, but the 67-year-old, Berkeley-educated economist could be a key player in any post-Suharto administration. More a reformist insider than an oppositionist, the former cabinet minister tapped growing middle-class desire for clean government in his vice-presidential bid earlier this year. Being from outside Java, Salim may not get a leading role, but any team will want to consider his expertise.

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