Can A Compromise President Hold Indonesia Together?

It was democracy at its most chaotic. On Oct. 20, Indonesia's People's Consultative Assembly, in a final spree of back-room politicking, agreed on Islamic cleric Abdurrahman Wahid, a man who is virtually blind, to lead the nation. The political jostling and last-minute compromising produced a carnival atmosphere in the normally decorous hall, with boos, cheers, and jeers not heard in Indonesian politics in decades. As the 691 members of various parties walked across the stage to mark their white paper ballots in voting booths in the wings, people were on the edge of their seats. "This is the first time we've ever done this," said an almost-incredulous assembly member from an Islamic party, peering over the balcony.

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