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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

MORE KINGMAKER THAN KING

Everyone is watching Wiranto's next move


S P E C I A L    R E P O R T
Elections Indonesians prepare to select new leaders
Players The ones to watch
The Stage Indonesia's electoral process
Wiranto The Kingmaker
Chinese Hedging their bets
Habibie Suharto's subordinate comes out swinging
Nationalist Sukarno's daughter on the campaign trail
Faith Islam's political force
Office Why the presidency?
FOR YEARS THE CONVENTIONAL wisdom was that whoever followed Suharto would at least have to be, like him, Javanese, Muslim and a general. Javanese because it's the dominant ethnic group, Muslim because Islam is the majority religion and a general because the army's influence pervades society. Such reasoning took as much of a beating last year as did Suharto, who was succeeded by B.J. Habibie - Muslim, yes, but neither Javanese nor a military man. Now, however, it's time for elections, which will yield a new parliament that will help select a new president. And there is indeed someone who satisfies the three old criteria.

"We might nominate Wiranto as a replacement candidate accepted by all parties." So said Marzuki Darusman, vice chairman of Golkar, recently about Indonesia's armed forces chief and defense and security minister. Darusman would say that, given he does not want Habibie to continue as president. Wiranto says he can do the job, noting that "a presidential decree allows me to take over if I consider the country to be in a state of emergency."

In which case, given Indonesia's chaotic condition, Wiranto should be able to take over anytime. Loyalty to Habibie is no hindrance. The buzz in Jakarta is that Wiranto has mounted a behind-the-scenes campaign against the president, pitting BIA, the military intelligence group he controls, against Bakin, which is run by Habibie backer Zein Maulani. Military sources say it was BIA that leaked the recording purporting to be a conversation between Habibie and Attorney-General Andi Ghalib - which damaged both men's reputations. In the tape, the pair appeared to be conspiring to play down any investigation against Suharto.

If Wiranto wants to be president, he will have to convince Golkar to nominate him. But Habibie is Golkar's front-runner. Instead, Wiranto is more likely to be a kingmaker. In the new parliament, the armed forces has 38 reserved seats - a critical boost to any presidential aspirant. Wiranto, who plays his cards closely, has cannily kept links open to all sides, even Habibie and the opposition.

Many Indonesians personally like Wiranto. It was he who allowed the students to occupy parliament last May. He also responded to public attacks on nepotism by pulling his wife and daughter from the People's Consultative Assembly. Within the military, Wiranto has trod carefully even as he has ensured his allies hold key positions. There has been no effective investigation of abuses by soldiers, and he has blocked moves to sort out renegade officers and troops involved in political operations like those in East Timor and Aceh. He is also evasive over the military's failure to combat mounting social unrest. "Why do people ask why we are not more responsive, when they never think about the successes in maintaining security?" he scolded journalists recently. "What about the people we've saved from being robbed at city intersections?" Lest anyone forget how central its military is to Indonesia.

- Reported by Dewi Loveard/Jakarta


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