Wahid warns of return to 'old ways'

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The Independent Online

Indonesia's sacked former president, Abdurrahman Wahid, finally agreed to give up the state palace yesterday, and warned that his country was stealthily returning to authoritarian rule.

In the final humiliation of his 21 months in power, Mr Wahid and his family will leave Jakarta's Freedom Palace this afternoon, bringing to an end a bizarre three-day impasse. On Monday, he was unanimously voted out by the national assembly, but he continued to insist that he was the rightful president, even as the woman who replaced him, Megawati Sukarnoputri, was preparing her new government.

Mr Wahid will swap his presidential office for a hospital bed, flying to America to be treated for stress. But yesterday he promised to return to politics, and accused Mrs Megawati of being a tool of reactionary military officers.

"They used the quarrel between the politicians to set up their own rule, which I think will slide little by little to the old ways," Mr Wahid said.

His daughter and close adviser, Yenny Zannubah, said that after his return he would "build up a new power base". She said: "This is not the end of a chapter – this is just a comma in the sentence." In a highly symbolic act on her first full day as President, Mrs Megawati travelled to East Java to pray at the grave of her father, Indonesia's founding president, Sukarno. In Jakarta, meanwhile, MPs a fierce struggle was going on for the vice-presidency, a post that will influence the direction of Mrs Megawati's new government. After two rounds of voting late last night, it appeared to be a run-off between the leaders of the biggest Muslim party and Golkar, the party founded by the former dictator, Suharto.

The new President how faces the challenge of forming a coalition government which includes Golkar but can push ahead with political reform.