Wahid faces his most crucial week

JAKARTA, Indonesia, AP

Indonesian President Abdurrahman Wahid is facing what could be the most crucial week yet in his battle to avoid impeachment by a hostile parliament that has implicated him in corruption.

Analysts predicted Sunday that the nearly blind 61-year-old leader would survive the crisis.

Wahid is scheduled Wednesday to deliver his response to a parliamentary censure over his alleged role in two multimillion dollar graft scandals.

If lawmakers are not satisfied with Wahid’s defense they can issue him a second reprimand, paving the way for possible impeachment within a few months.

As a measure of how seriously he is taking that threat, the president on Saturday canceled a long-awaited trip to Australia, saying he needed to concentrate on domestic issues.

Police are on alert for large demonstrations by supporters and opponents of Wahid coinciding with the president’s rebuttal. In the past similar protests have turned violent.

Wahid’s 17-month administration has been bogged down by the corruption allegations, which surfaced not long after he was elected as Indonesia’s first democratic leader in four decades.

He has consistently said he will not quit before his terms ends in 2004. He also fought back and accused his political opponents of manipulating the impeachment process and fabricating the charges.

“The situation is very messy,” said Benny Subianto, who teaches political science at several Jakarta universities. “But my bet is Wahid will survive because politically he is very astute.”

Besides preparing his response, Wahid and his party have been lobbying hard for the support of the 500 members of the parliament, Subianto said.

Surabaya based political lecturer Dede Oetomo also predicted the push to unseat the president would fail.

“Wahid is good at splitting his enemies. He is sophisticated,” said Oetomo, who teaches sociology at Airlangga University.

Wahid’s optimism that he will beat moves to force him from office comes despite plans by some opposition political party leaders to issue a second censure against him regardless of the content of his reply.