Photo montage by Adam Connors|
-- And Why
By ZOHER ABDOOLCARIM
A 1999 Report Card
Power can die out. That may be a brutally obvious observation to make,
but it remains worth stating -- and restating. Too many people who
wield power tend to believe it's theirs for life, or at the very least
their reason for life. It isn't and should not be on either count.
For such people, when reality hits, the impact can be jarring.
Is Out (job/status)
Hakuo, Japanese cabinet member
Neiss, director of the IMF's Asia department
Keizo, Japan's prime minister
Hiromu, Japan's chief cabinet secretary
Tsang Yam-kuen, Hong Kong's financial secretary
Ibrahim, Malaysia's reformasi standard-bearer
Nimmanhaeminda, Thai finance minister
former Indonesian president
Habibie, Indonesian president
Indonesian armed-forces supremo
Sharif, Pakistan's prime minister
Lopez Jr., Philippine tycoon
Pangilinan, Philippine CEO
Chee-hwa, Hong Kong's chief executive
Hasina, Bangladesh's prime minister
Nyunt, Myanmar strongman
Kha Phieu, Vietnam's Communist Party chief
San Suu Kyi, Myanmar democrat
Azizah Wan Ismail, Malaysian opposition figure
fate is a cautionary tale. We removed Indonesia's onetime strongman
from the Power 50 in 1998 because he was forced to step down, but
restored him the following year because he still commanded backroom
influence through protégés B.J. Habibie and Gen. Wiranto. Now, in
2000, they are gone from the ranking, and so is Suharto. While ex-president
Habibie leads a quiet existence, Wiranto is being investigated for
military abuses. And Suharto? Confined to Jakarta, grilled over corruption
allegations, handicapped by ill health. No, power is not forever.
It can be extended, though. The smart money in Hong Kong is on Chief
Executive Tung Chee-hwa going for a second term when his current five-year
stint expires in 2002. If Tung does "run," then he is sure to win
as even his candidacy cannot take place without Beijing's victory-determining
concurrence. But we opted to drop Tung this year. At a time when Hong
Kong is agonizing mightily over its future directions, Tung has been
all but absent in the past 12 months, except for over-exposed photo
ops with Mickey Mouse to mark Disney's decision to build a theme park
in Hong Kong. That critical boost for tourism aside, Hong Kong is
adrift, and we have cast Tung loose too.
At loose ends stand many people who were on the Power 50 list last
year, like Nawaz Sharif, Khin Nyunt, Aung San Suu Kyi and Le Kha Phieu.
In the wake of the military coup that overthrew him, Sharif has been
convicted of ordering the hijacking of the plane of his usurper, Gen.
Pervez Musharraf, and sentenced to life imprisonment. In the topsy-turvy
world of Pakistan powermongering which has more than once seen the
rebound of people seemingly confined to political oblivion, Sharif
may well secure high office yet again (he has been PM twice already).
But for now most Pakistanis accept that he is a goner, and so do we.
Khin Nyunt and Suu Kyi are locked in a mutually debilitating stalemate
over the battle for democracy. With neither side yielding, both lose,
along with Myanmar's long-suffering people. So in this year's Power
50, the nation goes unrepresented. If Hong Kong is adrift, then Vietnam
is positively marooned. The leadership is regressive and paranoid,
the economy stuck. As general secretary of the Communist Party of
Vietnam, Phieu is the most powerful man in the country. But in a fast-moving
Net-paced world, Phieu and his party are dinosaurs. In Power 50 2000,
they are left behind -- and left out.
Down and out is Anwar Ibrahim, ousted in September 1998 as Malaysia's
deputy prime minister and heir to PM Mahathir Mohamad. Last year we
kept Anwar on the list because the reformasi movement that he catalyzed
was proving a thorn in Mahathir's side. But reformasi has become dormant
and Anwar with wife Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, another reformasi stalwart,
see their power places go to others. The opposition to Mahathir is
now symbolized by the Parti Islam SeMalaysia and its most charismatic
leader, Abdul Hadi Awang (call it Islamasi). If reformasi gets kickstarted
again, expect Anwar and Azizah to slot back in. It won't be the first
-- or last -- time that people return to the list.
Sometimes the difference between who wields power and who doesn't
is not a matter of degree but of finality. Japanese prime minister
Obuchi Keizo and Philippine tycoon Eugenio Lopez Jr. are no longer
ranked simply because they passed away. Death will not be denied.
The point is: the holding or relinquishing of power is often beyond
our control. Unlike us, power can be resurrected. But like us, it
is not immortal.
1999 Report Card
By SANGWON SUH
Ten out of 16 ain't bad. Of the 16 individuals we selected as people
to watch in last year's Power 50, five broke into the list this year
and another five remain future contenders. Former Taipei mayor Chen
Shui-bian has made the biggest impact, muscling into the No.6 spot
by virtue of being elected Taiwan president (and ending the Kuomintang's
monopoly on power in the process). Across the Taiwan Strait there
is Zeng Qinghong, President Jiang Zemin's trusted aide, who comes
in at No.20. Thaksin Shinawatra (No.34), whose Thai Rak Thai Party
is seen as the most credible opposition force in Thailand, has prime
ministerial ambitions -- and the financial muscle to back them up.
At No.37 is the obnoxious yet effective Tokyo governor Ishihara Shintaro,
while East Timor's rebel-turned-statesman Jose Alexandre "Xanana"
Gusmao, de facto president of Asia's newest de facto nation, rounds
off the list at 50.
Those who didn't make the cut but remain budding powerbrokers include
the Malaysian duo, Najib Tun Razak and Hishammuddin Tun Hussein. In
the recent party polls for the dominant United Malays National Organization,
Najib was returned to the vice presidency, putting him in a good position,
for the time being, to be a future leader. Hishammuddin was meanwhile
confirmed as chief of the youth wing. Taipei mayor Ma Ying-jeou may
have seen his archrival Chen grab Taiwan's top job, but the photogenic
rising star of the Kuomintang burnished his reformist credentials
during the post-election clamor for President Lee Teng-hui's scalp.
In Thailand, Abhisit Vejjajiva and to a lesser degree Chaturon Chaisang
are still among the best hopes for the future in the political sphere.
We are, however, only human. We've had our share of misses, some of
them more spectacular than others. We tipped Indonesia's Glenn Yusuf
for greater things, but the former banker ended up being bundled out
of his position as head of the Indonesian Bank Restructuring Agency.
As Jiang Zemin's protégé, Beijing party chief Jia Qinglin looked to
have a bright future, but a major smuggling scandal implicating his
wife has done much to take the shine off his prospects.
Perhaps the one whose star has fallen the furthest is Shahbaz Sharif.
A mover and shaker in Pakistan while his brother Nawaz was prime minister,
he fell from grace faster than you could say "bloodless coup." Gen.
Pervez Musharraf now occupies the spot that, under different circumstances,
could have belonged to Shahbaz. Just goes to show that when all has
been said and done, there is still no way to tame the fickle nature
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