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Massive protest demands Wahid steps down

anti-Wahid protest
Protests demanding Wahid's resignation have become almost a daily occurrence  

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'Sea of mayhem'

Economic freefall

Daily protests

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JAKARTA, Indonesia (CNN) -- Indonesian police estimate up to 20,000 protesters gathered outside the Presidential Palace in Jakarta in the latest protest calling for President Abdurrahman Wahid to resign.

With fists in the air, chanting "Gus Dur Mundur", Gus Dur resign, students from at least a dozen universities demanded the president step aside so that under the constitution Vice-President Megawati Sukarnoputri can take his place.

Wahid, however, has said he has no intention of resigning, warning that if he did so the sprawling island nation would break apart.

Speaking to reporters inside the palace following a cabinet meeting the president said he had "ordered Vice-President Megawati (Sukarnoputri) to be proactive in running this government."

'Sea of mayhem'

The demonstration, one of the largest since Wahid came to power, coincides with a warning by a senior minister that Indonesia stood on the brink of collapse.

Coordinating Minister of Political Social and Security Affairs Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said the credibility and authority of Gus Dur has decreased and that this was affecting the credibility of the government.

"Without . . . stability, law and security, our country will become a sea of mayhem, violence and worry," he was quoted as saying.

"This uncertainty will have a severe impact, not only on the political front but also in our economic, social and security fields."

Economic freefall

Bnk staff count stacks of rupiah
The value of the rupiah has plunged to its lowest point in two years  

The political uncertainly has already had a massive economic impact with Indonesia showing little sign of dragging itself out of its ongoing financial crisis.

On Monday the Indonesian rupiah fell to its lowest level against the dollar in two years, plummeting below the psychologically important 11,000 mark.

There has been increased pressure on the President to show the strong leadership needed to resolve conflicts across the nation.

Criticism increased when he left for a two-week tour of the Middle East and Africa just as bloody clashes between ethnic Dayaks and Madurese settlers in Central Kalimantan province claimed around 500 lives and sent more than 50,000 people fleeing their homes.

Pressure has also been growing inside Indonesia's parliament, the People's Consultative Assembly, where the president's National Awakening Party controls just 10 percent of the seats.

Over the weekend the Golkar Party threw its support behind Megawati if she replaces Wahid in accordance with the constitution.

Golkar was once the political vehicle used by former President Suharto during his three decades of power.

A coalition of smaller Islamic parties has also been voicing its support for the vice president.

Daily protests

Since Wahid returned there have been daily protests in Jakarta.

Further demonstrations have taken place in Central Kalimantan's where last week a riot in the capital Palangkaraya ended in the deaths of at least four Dayak protesters after police opened fire with automatic weapons.

None of the Jakarta demonstrations have been as large as the one on Monday and it appears to be growing in size with truckloads of protesters arriving to join the rally.

Police have laid rolls of razor wire to prevent any attempt to storm the palace.

The protest has been vocal, colorful and times jovial with students singing "we are showing the confused people the way to go" by calling for the President to resign.

At one stage, a Wahid impersonator stood in front of the crowd saying he would resign and that he admitted taking money from two financial scandals in which he has been implicated.

Standing on top of a truck outside the palace the man said he would distribute the money to his friends and family.

Critics have repeatedly accused Wahid of failing to deliver on promises to clamp down on the corruption and cronyism of past regimes.

Rebels attacked an oil depot in Indonesia's Aceh province, police reported Monday, and the government said it would heighten security around the operations of a U.S. oil company in the area.

Several drums of oil were blown up but no one was injured.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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