Indonesian lawmakers meet to iron out presidential election rules
October 18, 1999
From staff and wire reports
JAKARTA, Indonesia (CNN) -- With just two days to go before selecting a new president, Indonesia's top legislative assembly convened Monday to iron out the final rules for the election.
Members of the 700-seat People's Consultative Assembly are divided over what process to adopt if no clear winner emerges from Wednesday's presidential contest. Indonesian President B.J. Habibie, who pleaded with lawmakers on Sunday to return him to office, faces a formidable challenge from opposition leader Megawati Sukarnoputri and Abdurrahman Wahid, a popular Islamic cleric.
Some legislators have proposed a runoff between the top two finishers. Others want a longer process that would eliminate candidates over three stages of voting.
"If today we cannot come to an agreement, we will throw the two alternatives to the plenary session tomorrow," said one lawmaker.
Monday's session follows a last-ditch effort by Habibie to save his floundering presidency. Days after a previous speech received a hostile reaction from lawmakers, Habibie on Sunday appealed to members of the parliament to "forgive my shortcomings."
"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.
Many fear vote-buying
Habibie's 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, whose party took roughly a third of the assembly's seats in June elections.
By analysts in Indonesia have warned that her election is far from guaranteed. Despite Habibie's lack of popularity, many fear that vote-buying could secure him a second term.
The ruling Golkar Party was for years the political vehicle of Habibie's authoritarian predecessor, Suharto, whose 32-year reign ended last year amid widespread demonstrations and unrest.
A poll published Monday in the Kompas daily newspapers found 70 percent of those surveyed worried that vote-buying would be used to secure the presidency.
Jakarta Bureau Chief Maria Ressa and Reuters contributed to this report.
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