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Indonesian leader pleads with lawmakers for his job

habibie
Habibie's speech was seen as a last-ditch attempt to save his presidency  

October 18, 1999
Web posted at: 3:48 p.m. HKT (0748 GMT)

From staff and wire reports

JAKARTA, Indonesia (CNN) -- Indonesian President B.J. Habibie pleaded with lawmakers for his job on Sunday as the country's parliament prepares for a Wednesday vote on a new president.

Habibie, who succeeded the authoritarian Suharto 16 months ago, may be unseated Wednesday when the People's Consultative Assembly votes on whether to keep him in office or name a new president. The abject tone of his speech marked the first time in Indonesia's history that a national leader has had to face an accounting by representatives of the people.

Days after a previous speech received a hostile reaction from lawmakers, Habibie appealed to members of the 700-member parliament to "forgive my shortcomings."

 VIDEO
VideoCNN's Maria Ressa reports on the unrest in the streets of Jakarta as students protest the Habibie government. (Oct. 15)
Windows Media 28K 80K
 
  MESSAGE BOARD
Indonesia and East Timor
 

"To those political factions which have evaluated me as having failed in reaching targets for all of these matters, I plead my state to God Almighty, because He is omniscient and all-knowing," Habibie said.

His own party has threatened to abandon him in his bid to remain the vast archipelago's chief executive. Anti-Habibie protesters have battled police in Jakarta's streets in recent days, and only one minor party has said it would approve the accountability speech he delivered last Thursday defending his rule.

If voted out, Habibie is most likely to be succeeded by Megawati Sukarnoputri, whose party took roughly a third of the assembly's seats in June elections. Many prominent members of Megawati's party have been out on the streets along with the students calling for Habibie's ouster.

Habibie's almost two-hour speech on Sunday was a rebuttal to criticism that followed his accountability report on Thursday. He defended his human rights record, his handling of the economy and particularly, his decision to let East Timor vote on independence.

Residents of the island territory -- which Indonesia occupied in 1975 -- voted to secede in the U.N.-run referendum, held August 30. That damaged Habibie's popularity and his standing with the politically powerful military, which has 38 assembly seats.

Nevertheless, he urged the assembly to accept the results and let the island go its own way.

"As a big nation who recently determined to fight for democracy, we have to accept the results," he said.

Jakarta Bureau Chief Maria Ressa and Reuters contributed to this report.

ASIANOW


RELATED STORIES:
Indonesian President Habibie names general as running mate
October 13, 1999

RELATED SITES:
UN Main Page
B. J. Habibie Home Page
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