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Indonesia's Key National Leaders

| Abdurrahman Wahid | Megawati Sukarnoputri |
| B.J. Habibie | Former Pres. Suharto |

Abdurrahman Wahid
Elected President of Indonesia in October 1999, Abdurrahman Wahid is the leader of Indonesia's largest Muslim organization. Frail and nearly blind, Wahid--who is also known as "Gus Dar"-- chose Megawati Sukarnoputri as his vice president.

Since his election, Wahid has attempted to stem corruption, solidify democratic rule and keep the military in check. Wahid has also been forced to handle violent clashes between Muslims and Christians in East Timor following that province's referendum to secede. In the wake of violence and a mounting refugee problem, the U.N. was forced to send a stabilization force to the region to protect Timorese from armed militias and the Indonesian army.

Post Stories:
Indonesian Party Leader Enters Presidential Race (October, 8 1999)
Indonesia's Political Jester Faces a Serious Choice (June 15, 1999)

Megawati Sukarnoputri
Sukarnoputri is the current Vice President of Indonesia. The daughter of Indonesia's first president Sukarno, Sukarnoputri was considered the front-runner for the presidency in 1999 elections. Her vocal supporters, who took to the streets of Jakarta in often violent demonstrations prior to elections, swore to rebel if she was not elected. It was thought that her position was helped by her alliance with the country's largest Muslim organization, the National Awakening Party, and its leader, Abdurrahman Wahid. However, after an upset victory by Wahid in October 1999, Sukarnoputri was forced to accept the vice presidency. She heads the Indonesian Democratic Party (PDI-P), which has opposed the corruption and human rights abuses of former President Suharto's regime. Sukarnoputri draws large crowds whenever she speaks, particularly young people who recognize her family name but do not remember her father's chaotic rule of the 1960s.

Post Stories:
Indonesian Aims to Bring Dream Full Circle (June 7, 1999)
Indonesia's Megwati Stays Above the Issues (June 2, 1999)
Sukarno Heir Plans Return to Presidential Palace (Feb. 4, 1999)
Indonesia Begins Wide-Open Election Campaign (Feb. 2, 1999)

B.J. Habibie
Suharto's handpicked successor, Habibie ascended to the presidency in May 1998, but never gained popular appeal. During his short tenure, Habibie agreed with parliamentary leaders to call for elections in 1999 and allowed for an initial probe of former President Suharto's wealth to proceed. The target of violent protests leading up to elections, it was clear that Habibie would not win and instead, he withdrew from the race a week before elections.

Habibie had been heavily criticized by students and analysts for his handling of Indonesia's economic crisis and the country's spiraling prices. Habibie and his party, Golkar, also were widely discredited for their continuing support of Suharto. Golkar had been trying to develop a more reformist image, moving to the forefront such untainted faces as Marzuki Darusman, a prominent human rights campaigner. The strategy ultimately proved to be unsuccessful.

Post Stories:
Habibie Seeks to Boost Election Hopes (October 14, 1999)
Indonesian Students Riot, Ask President to Resign (Sept. 8, 1998)
Indonesian President Agrees to 1999 Election (May 29, 1998)
Habibie: Indonesian Oracle, or Oddball? (Feb. 19, 1998)

Former Pres. Suharto
Ousted after 32 years by democracy protests in May 1998, former President Suharto remains a lingering force in Indonesia, with the backing of key members of the military. A former general, Suharto came to power in the aftermath of a coup attempt of then-president Sukarno in the 1960s. During his reign, Suharto ruled with an iron fist, crushing dissent and jailing hundreds of activists for speaking out against the government. Many were eventually tortured and killed in prison.

In the 1980s, Suharto initiated a series of economic reforms liberalizing trade, finance, and foreign investment – moves that produced increased wealth in Indonesia, expanding the economy more than 7 percent annually from 1985 to 1996. Suharto, his family, and his friends benefited greatly from the economic boom. Critics say the president used his position to provide subsidies and regulatory relief for the companies of his children and friends.

By the end of 1998, Suharto's family controlled an empire valued anywhere from $16 billion to $35 billion, in industries ranging from hotels and transportation, to banks and automobiles.

Post Stories:
Seven Days in May That Toppled a Titan (May 24, 1998)
Suharto's System May Be Hard to Uproot (May 23, 1998)
Cashing in on Years in Power (May 22, 1998)
Suharto Resigns, Names Successor (May 21, 1998)

© 1999 The Washington Post Company

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