Habibie becomes president after Suharto resigns
Indonesian military pledges to support change
May 20, 1998
Web posted at: 11:15 p.m. EDT (0315 GMT)
JAKARTA, Indonesia (CNN) -- Bowing to the will of his
increasingly angry people, a tired and drawn Indonesian
President Suharto resigned Thursday, bringing 32 years of
authoritarian rule to a sudden and dramatic end.
"I believe that it has become has become extremely difficult
for me to continue the leadership of this country and to
cultivate the development of our country," Suharto said,
announcing what he termed his "withdrawal" from the
presidency in an address to the nation at 9 a.m. Thursday
"[I] express my deepest sorrow if there were mistakes,
failures or shortcomings," he said in a halting voice.
Vice President Bucharuddin Jusuf Habibie was immediately
sworn in as president of the fourth most-populous country in
the world. Suharto said Habibie would not be a caretaker but
would finish the rest of his presidential term, which lasts
Immediately after Habibie was sworn in, Gen. Wiranto, the
defense minister and head of the military, made a statement
in which he endorsed the leadership transition. He also
cautioned Indonesians to "avoid any unrest."
Protesters camped out in parliament
Habibie is sworn in as president
Suharto made his exit as student protesters camped out in
protest at Indonesia's parliament compound, and after the
speaker of the parliament threatened to remove him from
office if he didn't leave on his own.
The president's political position unraveled quickly. His
resignation came just a week after violent riots claimed at
least 500 lives in Jakarta, forcing the military to send in
tanks and troops to keep order.
The speaker of the Indonesian parliament, Harmoko, announced
Wednesday that if the president did not step down by Friday,
he would convene the People's Consultative Assembly, which
has the power to name a new president and vice president.
Indonesia has been buffeted by an economic crisis that eroded
support for Suharto and triggered a series of protests by
university students. Last week, those protests spread to the
urban poor, who were hard hit by price increases imposed by
the government to deal with the economic woes.
In his resignation speech, Suharto said he had "followed with
great care" the recent events in Indonesia, "especially the
aspirations of our people to institute reforms across the
board, across all aspects of our life and our nation."
In response, Suharto said he had called for a reshuffling of
his Cabinet and the establishment of a reform committee. But
he said there was a lack of consensus on how to form the
committee, which led him to a decision to abandon the Cabinet
changes and, instead, leave his post as Indonesian leader,
which he has held since 1965.
Confrontation avoided Wednesday
Jakarta awakens to a new political day
A possible confrontation between protesters and the military
that some feared might turn into a bloodbath Wednesday was
averted when a protest in Jakarta, expected to draw up to 1
million people, was called off. However, about 10,000
students lined the rooftop and grounds of the parliament
building, chanting and waving banners calling for Suharto to
Students danced in the main assembly hall, where
parliamentary legislators had routinely rubber-stamped laws
for Suharto. Some broke into offices, folding official papers
into paper airplanes and sailing them off balconies.
Students said prayers over Suharto's effigy before
symbolically hanging the only president their generation has
In a behind-the-scenes deal, the military, which moved troops
-- allegedly with orders to shoot -- into the center of
Jakarta and set up barriers, agreed to leave the students
alone as long as they stayed on the parliament grounds and
off the streets.
But anti-Suharto protests erupted in at least six other
cities and towns. In Suharto's hometown of Yoygakarta, police
estimated the turnout at 250,000. Some witnesses claimed the
actual crowd was twice the official estimate.
Protests in Indonesia grew angrier and bolder in the past
week. And as pandemonium replaced politics, some sober
student officials began to worry about a backlash by the
military, which had backed Suharto's rule.
Correspondents Mike Chinoy and Maria Ressa contributed to