President Abdurrahman Wahid (popularly known as Gus Dur),
whose term of office was supposed to run until 2004, lost
his presidency when the People's Consultative Assembly
(MPR) revoked its mandate and appointed Vice President
Megawati Soekarnoputri as a new president.
In a special session on July 23, 2001, ahead of the scheduled
date of August 1, 2001, the Assembly revoked its mandate
to Wahid on the grounds that he had exceeded his authority,
particularly by issuing a decree suspending the Assembly
and the House of Representatives (DPR).
With the appointment of Megawati Soekarnoputri, chairman
of the Indonesian Democratic Party for Struggle (PDIP
- the party which won the 1999 election), Indonesia now
has a president elected by democratic and constitutional
Three days after the appointment of Megawati as a new
president, Hamzah Haz, chairman of the Indonesian United
Party (PPP), was elected the country's ninth vice president.
Hamzah garnered a majority of votes in the third round
of the vice presidential ballot. The appointment of Hamzah
as vice president is expected to bring renewed hope for
peace with a call for political parties to come together
to support President Megawati Soekarnoputri's government.
The new national leadership duo of President Megawati
and Vice President Hamzah Haz is expected to defuse the
political and economic turmoil that has plagued the country
for the past three years.
Megawati will lead Indonesia until 2004, after which
Indonesia will have another general election.
The world's largest archipelago is still in the process
of democratisation despite the ongoing economic crisis.
By definition, democracy means that all citizens can exercise
their right to speak freely and to vote in free elections,
rights that have previously not been widely exercised
in this country. Indonesia is experiencing a positive
trend in this regard, following the emergence of the reform
movement spearheaded by university students in May 1998.
It all started when students of almost all universities
in Indonesia held a series of rallies demanding reforms
in the government, which led to the resignation of Soeharto
in May 21, 1998. The first democratic election on June
7, 1999 was seen by many as a landmark for the country
after more than three decades of authoritarian rule. Indonesia
then held a presidential election in October 1999 that
brought Abdurrahman Wahid to the presidency.
The road to democracy is long in such large and complex
country, but we are well on the way and determined to
reach our goals.