Defiant Wahid repeats snap poll threat

JAKARTA, Reuters

A defiant Indonesian President Abdurrahman Wahid on Monday reiterated his threat to call snap elections to stay in power and said his ouster would lead to the break-up of the suffering country.

Appearing to dump an offer made last week to reconcile with political rivals, Wahid said any attempt to force him to account for his rule at an August impeachment hearing in the top legislature would be treasonable and result in his downfall.

Wahid added that the world’s fourth-most populous country was in a “tumultuous situation” after years of economic and political crisis and attacked some MPs for playing down the threat of violence that his ouster would bring.

Underscoring growing impatience over the saga, seven factions in parliament called on the top legislature to bring forward the August 1 impeachment hearing to end the turmoil that threatens to jeopardize Indonesia’s shaky transition to democracy.

“I support the (impeachment hearing) but don’t let the presidential accountability happen because it is not known in our system,” Wahid said in a hard-hitting speech at the presidential palace to officials from a military think-tank.

“If it happens (the accounting), there must be an act of treason…which will certainly mean the ousting of the president and the breaking up of our country into pieces.

“There is a huge constitutional deadlock that has to be resolved. There can be no other solution than a snap election (if this cannot be resolved)…,” Wahid added.

But underscoring his penchant for erratic statements, Wahid later implied that it was not his wish to call an early election.

Asked by reporters when the snap poll would be held, Wahid said: “Why ask me…It is the people who desire it, not me.” He did not elaborate.

Wahid has previously called the demand to account for his rule unconstitutional and threatened to call a state of emergency should legislators in the People’s Consultative Assembly (MPR) refuse to back off.

He has said he will not deliver the accountability speech, infuriating legislators who have said they will hold the hearing over his rocky rule and two financial scandals anyway. Indonesia’s first democratically elected leader did not mention the state of emergency threat which would freeze all parliamentary processes and result in a snap election. It would also allow the arrest of Wahid’s opponents.

Indeed, Wahid has few options left to stay in power apart from such drastic action and the threat of violence from his fanatical supporters.

Wahid’s defense minister added that if the Muslim cleric just wanted to call a snap election, this would need MPR approval, which would almost certainly be withheld.

Waiting silently in the wings is Wahid’s estranged deputy Megawati Sukarnoputri, who is expected to take over should the cleric be ousted. She controls the MPR’s largest party.

Her faction in parliament joined six others on Monday in calling on the MPR to speed up the impeachment hearing. But the influential chief of the MPR, Amien Rais, said the assembly needed a strong reason to bring forward the session.

The 700-member MPR comprises the 500 seats in parliament and 200 other appointees. Only it has the power to sack presidents.