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Megawati takes office in Indonesia

Megawati
Megawati takes the oath of office as Indonesia's new vice president  

New vice president pledges cooperation, unity

October 22, 1999
Web posted at: 12:57 a.m. HKT (1657 GMT)


In this story:

Megawati, Wahid urge unity

Megawati win expected to calm protests

RELATED STORIES, SITES icon



JAKARTA, Indonesia (CNN) -- With Islam's sacred book the Koran held above her head, Megawati Sukarnoputri swore Thursday to uphold Indonesia's constitution as she took office as the country's first freely elected vice president.

Standing before the Peoples' Consultative Assembly to take the oath of office, Megawati praised the legislature's peaceful work on behalf of "the nation that I love" and pledged to stand side-by-side with newly elected President Abdurrahman Wahid.

  AUDIO

Jakarta Bureau Chief Maria Ressa comments on the role of Indonesia's new leadership

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  TIMELINE
Chronology of Indonesian crisis

 
  MESSAGE BOARD
Indonesia and East Timor

 
  RESOURCES
 
 VIDEO
VideoJakarta Bureau Chief Maria Ressa reports on Megawati Sukarnoputri's election as vice president of Indonesia (October 21)
Windows Media 28K 80K
 

"The victory of my brother, Abdurrahman Wahid, is also my victory and my happiness," said Megawati, daughter of Indonesia's first president, Sukarno. "I am thoroughly convinced that this victory is a joint victory for the entire people of this country."

Moderate Muslim leader Wahid spoiled Megawati's run at the archipelago nation's presidency on Wednesday, defeating the popular favorite by 60 votes. But Wahid's National Awakening Party took a significant step toward unity on Thursday by nominating Megawati for the No. 2 post.

Megawati became the favorite for vice president after her loss Wednesday, which came in part because of a Muslim backlash against the idea of a woman president as well as concerns that as a political novice she would be an ineffective ruler.

The vice presidency, normally a largely ceremonial post, takes on new importance in light of the 59-year-old Wahid's frail health. Many people believe that Wahid, who has had two strokes in recent years and is nearly blind, will not complete his five-year term. Megawati would succeed him.

Megawati, Wahid urge unity

In his inaugural address Wednesday, Wahid urged unity and cooperation among Indonesia's various factions, and quoted Megawati's father as he praised her contributions toward democracy.

Megawati echoed Wahid's message of unity Thursday, offering her "deepest gratitude" for the "great contributions" of Golkar Party chairman Akbar Tanjung and armed forces chief Gen. Wiranto, both of whom withdrew from the vice-presidential race minutes before the voting began.

She also thanked Hamzah Haz, her sole opponent for the post, and former President B.J. Habibie, Wahid's predecessor.

"Even with all the differences of opinion between my brethren, B.J. Habibie, and myself, Megawati Sukarnoputri, we remain shoulder to shoulder in our efforts for this country," Megawati said. "There is no political force that could make us confront each other in a way that is not peaceful."

Habibie, who withdrew from the presidential election after the assembly narrowly rejected his assessment of the successes and failures of his 16-month administration, was in the assembly for Megawati's swearing in. He became president in 1998 after longtime dictator Suharto resigned amid massive public protests against his long rule.

Megawati win expected to calm protests

In Thursday's vote, Megawati took 396 of the 700 votes in the assembly, topping Muslim-oriented United Development Party's Haz by 112 votes.

"I am very grateful of what has been achieved," a tearful Megawati said just after the result of the vice presidential vote was announced. "Certainly my first step is to give the best thing to the Indonesian people."

Megawati's Indonesian Democratic Party-Struggle holds the largest voting bloc in the assembly, but she was unable to put together enough votes for a majority. Wahid's win set off riots in the streets of Jakarta, where thousands of Megawati's supporters had gathered expecting to celebrate her victory.

Her election to the vice presidency was expected to quell the violence.

The capital was mostly calm Thursday as the legislators met. But fresh violence erupted ahead of the vote on the main tourist island of Bali, as hundreds of pro-Megawati protesters cut down trees and burned tires as roadblocks in the city of Denpasar.

"The streets are totally paralyzed since many people are on the streets and put up roadblocks," one witness said.

There were no immediate reports of looting or violence, and it appeared that the main tourist resorts at beaches outside the city were not affected.



Jakarta Bureau Chief Maria Ressa and Correspondent Marina Kamimura contributed to this report.

ASIANOW


RELATED STORIES:
Indonesia turns attention to crucial vice presidential vote
October 20, 1999
Habibie withdraws from Indonesia's presidential race
October 19, 1999
White-collar workers in Jakarta join anti-Habibie chorus
October 18, 1999
Indonesian leader pleads with lawmakers for his job
October 17, 1999
Indonesian President Habibie names general as running mate
October 13, 1999

RELATED SITES:
United Nations Home Page
Indonesian National Commission on Human Rights
Golkar Party
Indonesian Embassy
  • Government of Indonesia
  • Facts about Indonesia
World-Wide Web Virtual Library: Indonesia
See related sites about Southeast Asia
Southeast Asian media sites

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