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President of Indonesia 1999-2001, elected after the first democratic elections in the country's history.

A cleric who headed the large Muslim organization the Nahdlatul Ulama, which he had taken over from his father, he was already an extremely influential man in Indonesian politics. However, although only 59, he was extremely frail, almost blind, and had suffered two strokes shortly before the election, held on 7 June 1999. He has to have his speeches read for him, and his news read to him.

The election was actually won by the very popular Megawati Sukarnoputri's PDI-P party, sweeping aside the official Golkar party of incumbent president B.J. Habibie. But because some Muslim leaders were reluctant to accept a female president, Wahid was elected president by the parliament, and Megawati became his vice-president. They took office on 20 October 1999.

Gus Dur, 'Uncle Dur', as he is familiarly known, had a reputation as a tolerant and enlightened thinker, and great hopes were held for solutions to Indonesia's ethnic and secessionist problems. He resisted calls for Islamic rule, and is a great supporter of the secular nationalist ideology known as Pancasila. But soon he was embroiled in corruption allegations, with his personal masseur having apparently fled with large amounts of state funds. He himself was accused of taking donations from the Sultan of Brunei.

This led him into confrontation with the national assembly, the MPR. He was impeached, and today (23 July 2001) the MPR met to remove him from office. President Wahid's final act was to dissolve the assembly to prevent this, but the Supreme Court annulled his decree and the armed forces refused to act for him. Vice-President Megawati was today installed as the fifth president of Indonesia.

< B.J. Habibie - Indonesia - Megawati Sukarnoputri >

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