DAILY CATHOLIC    MONDAY     October 25, 1999     vol. 10, no. 203

from a CATHOLIC perspective

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Defended Christian Minorities During 1998 Violence

        JAKARTA, OCT 22 (ZENIT).- The recent election of Abdurrahman Wahid as Indonesia's new President is regarded positively by the Christian minority. Wahid is leader of the Muslim traditionalist organization Nahdlatul Ulama, which has 35 million followers. The People's Consultative Assembly elected him on October 20 with 373 votes out of a total of 691. Megawati Sukarnoputri, the runner-up, received 313 votes; there were 5 abstentions.

        President-elect Wahid is supported by the National Mandate Party, led by Amien Rais, and by the Justice Party. Each of these parties has 40 seats, out of a total of 700 in the Assembly. The support of the Gokar, former President Habibie's Party, was decisive for the victory of moderate Muslim leader Wahid. The Assembly withdrew its support from Habibie because of his failure to implement reforms, and his inability to address the economic crisis and East Timor's secession. Wahid also enjoys the support of the Chinese ethnic minorities, the majority of whom are Christians, who were defended by him during the violence suffered in May, 1998.

        Wahid's surprise victory, caused disconcert among Megawati's followers. Riots broke out in the capital, followed by police confrontations that ended in two deaths and 50 injured. Megawati Sukarnoputri's personality was considered less than ideal for leadership of the country. Muslims accuse her of being a native of Bali, an Island of Hindu majority, which is considered negative for a country that is primarily Muslim. The 35% of votes obtained by her party in the general elections reflected the widespread desire for a political change, but the numbers were insufficient to insure the presidency. Subsequently, in order to avoid additional violence by her followers, the Assembly came to a compromise solution and elected her Vice-President.

        Most Catholics are confident that the new President will respect minorities and prepare the way for a true democracy in Indonesia. However, Jesuit Fr. Mudjisutrinso told the international news agency "Fides" that the violence was predictable, since the People's Assembly did not reflect the results of the June elections, when the people voted for Megawati. ZE99102201

Articles provided through Catholic World News and Church News at Noticias Eclesiales and International Dossiers, Daily Dispatches and Features at ZENIT International News Agency. CWN, NE and ZENIT are not affiliated with the Daily CATHOLIC but provide this service via e-mail to the Daily CATHOLIC Monday through Friday.

October 25, 1999       volume 10, no. 203


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