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Web-only Exclusives
November 30, 2000

From Our Correspondent: Hirohito and the War
A conversation with biographer Herbert Bix

From Our Correspondent: A Rough Road Ahead
Bad news for the Philippines - and some others

From Our Correspondent: Making Enemies
Indonesia needs friends. So why is it picking fights?

Asiaweek Time Asia Now Asiaweek story

OCTOBER 29, 1999 VOL. 25 NO. 43

The Road To Rejection
The events surrounding Habibie's fall
By JOSE MANUEL TESORO and DEWI LOVEARD Jakarta

    ALSO IN ASIAWEEK
Cover: Maneuvering to the Top
In a dramatic twist, Abdurrahman Wahid becomes Indonesia's leader. Can he rule?

Indonesia: The Road To Rejection The events surrounding Habibie's fall

Battle For Balance Wahid's mediation allowed the Big Three to bridge basic differences

East Timor: 'This Was Systematic' In East Timor, a trail of death and destruction

Pakistan: Is This Man Starting to Enjoy Power? Musharraf may be in charge for a while. Pakistanis aren't griping. Yet

United States: Fallout on Capitol Hill Domestic squabbles nix an international nuclear accord

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He was foiled at the final turn. B.J. Habibie, 63, had endured months of personal attacks, corruption scandals and splits within his own party to battle for his political future. But it was not to be. His accountability speech was rejected by the MPR late on Oct. 19, leading him to step down as Golkar's presidential candidate. A recounting of Habibie's final defeat:

Oct. 18 (Mon), 10:00 p.m. Golkar's pro-Habibie camp requests a leaders' meeting at party headquarters - presumably a last-ditch effort to unify the party behind Habibie. Chairman Akbar Tandjung gives a ranting speech, but it is unclear exactly what point he is driving at. The meeting breaks up three hours later without reaching any conclusions. It is apparent, however, that the party remains irrevocably split. Around 85 members have confirmed that they will reject the speech. But they also say they will push for a secret ballot. "We will not embarrass Habibie in public," says one. "After all, Golkar was the master of this nation for over 30 years. We have to appreciate the feelings of our members who still can't believe that the times have changed."

Oct. 19 (Tue), 7:15 p.m. Just as the MPR session starts the process of voting on the accountability speech, the DPR's East Timorese delegate Natercia Osorio Soares disrupts the proceedings to deliver an emotional speech. In accented Indonesian, she recounts the history of East Timor's relationship with Indonesia and expresses regret that the territory never had the chance to enjoy the benefits of integration. She ends: "In the name of the East Timorese people, I would like to thank the whole Indonesian nation for all the sacrifice, aid and concern given to us all this time." She is given a standing ovation.

9:05 p.m. The voting begins. The delegates have rejected the new electronic voting system, so the casting of the ballot is done manually with pen and little green slips of paper.

11:00 p.m. The ballots are laboriously counted one by one. The tension in the chamber is palpable. The "reject" votes initially take the lead, but by the time half the ballots have been counted, the "accepts" are on top. Habibie backers burst into a song about Bandung, long the home of Habibie's family. But their elation does not last long. In the final stretch, the rejects pip the accepts. Habibie's opponents in the balcony roar and start singing the national anthem. Amid cries of "Allahu Akbar" (God is great), some clasp their hands in a prayer of thanks. Habibie supporters are slumped in their seats, stunned.

Oct. 20 (Wed), 12:25 a.m. The vote result is officially announced: 355 against Habibie's speech, 322 for, 9 abstentions, 4 spoiled ballots. Shortly thereafter, the MPR passes a decree formally revoking East Timor's integration into Indonesia.

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