(Petaling Jaya, Thursday): When Suharto was elected to the seventh five-year term as Indonesian President in March, he made it very clear that he wanted to complete his term of office in the year 2,003.
However, in less than three months, Suharto had to resign as Indonesian President not because of any international conspiracy to topple him from his 32-year tenure of the office but because of the will of the Indonesian people for political reforms.
The battle for political reform, without which there could be no effective economic change, has not been won however, for Suharto’s resignation is only the first of many measures that must happen for democracy to take root in Indonesia.
Jusuf Habibie’s immediate swearing-in as the third Indonesian President, with the statement that he would serve out Suharto’s term till 2,003, raises the questions as to the backtracking of the promise given by Suharto on Tuesday of early general elections and whether Habibie have the qualities, capabilities and commitment to lead Indonesia towards a democratic transition.
As Habibie belongs to Suharto’s old order of cronyism, corruption and collusion which Indonesians want to destroy, can he turn his back on the Suharto past and re-invent himself as a custodian of democracy and good governance in Indonesia?
Habibie is legally and constitutionally the third Indonesian President but he has to win legitimacy as Indonesian President by confounding critics and skeptics by immediately initiating political reforms and democratic changes to win popular support for the tough economic measures needed to overcome the economic crisis - including holding early general elections to introduce democracy to Indonesia.