Indonesia’s Wahid heads for showdown with political foes

JAKARTA, Reuters

Embattled Indonesian President Abdurrahman Wahid and his political foes prepared for a showdown on Friday as the head of Indonesia’s top legislature said time had run out for a political compromise.

Hundreds of riot police on Thursday guarded the Parliament complex where the People’s Consultative Assembly (MPR) is set to hold a snap impeachment session if Wahid carries out his threat to declare a state of emergency and call early elections.

“I don’t think that any compromise still has a chance, it is too late right now,” MPR speaker and Wahid ally turned chief foe Amien Rais told Reuters Television in an interview on Thursday. “He is counting the days.”

The assembly, which elected Wahid president of the world’s most populous Muslim nation 21 months ago, is scheduled to convene from August 1 to consider sacking him over his chaotic rule.

But Rais, an architect of Wahid’s surprise rise to power, and other assembly leaders have warned they would call a special session on Friday night if Wahid declared a state of emergency by his self imposed 6:00 p.m. deadline.

Police said they were ready to dispatch about 6,000 men to guard the parliamentary complex if the 700-seat MPR gathers on Friday. The MPR includes Parliament’s 500 members and another 200 regional and community representatives.

Wahid’s party controls only 10 percent of the assembly and Parliament. The ailing Muslim cleric is almost certain to fall whenever the MPR does consider impeachment.

Security forces have drawn up evacuation plans for MPR members and foreign diplomats if violence erupts.

“In regards to the places of the evacuation and the details, I only told this to the ambassadors,” Jakarta police chief Inspector-General Sofjan Jacoeb told reporters after a meeting with 75 ambassadors.

Wahid on Wednesday vowed to go ahead with a state of emergency and early elections, but said the state of emergency would only come into force on July 31 to give him more time to stave off his ouster.