an area of the map for world news.
the October 2001 issue of World Press Review (VOL. 48, No.
Philippine Star (independent), Manila, The Philippines, July 24,
similarities are hard to miss.
Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and Megawati Sukarnoputri smile for
the cameras (Photo: AFP).
Both [Philippines President] Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and Megawati
Sukarnoputri are the daughters of former presidents. Both were installed
in power after their predecessors were impeached amid accusations
of corruption and incompetence. And both must deal with a faltering
economy and deep political divisions.
Yesterday, a day after he was sacked by Indonesias national
assembly, Abdurrahman Wahid remained holed up at the presidential
palace, questioning his ouster and refusing to give way to Megawati.
When Wahid took the helm as Indonesias fourth president, there
were hopes that the countrys first freely elected leader could
pull his nation from the brink of disaster.
The Asian economic crisis that started in 1997 wreaked its worst havoc
on Indonesia, the worlds fourth most populous nation. The riots
that erupted as Indonesias economy went into a tailspin brought
down Suharto, Asias longest reigning autocrat. Suharto, however,
still managed to hand-pick his successor, B.J. Habibie, who protected
the interests of his longtime benefactor until he was replaced by
Wahid in October 1999.
Now Wahid is also out of power, and his supporters are threatening
to make governance difficult for his successor. Wahids election
marked Indonesias transition to democracy. As in the case of
the Philippines, the transition has been painful for Indonesia. Megawati
is taking over a nation riven by separatism, a nation whose economy
is in ruins.
Like President Arroyo, Megawati is perceived as a member of the elite
and is criticized for her close ties to the military. Unlike President
Arroyo, however, Megawati is no economist and is considered an intellectual
lightweight. And unlike President Arroyo, who has the full backing
of the Philippines dominant Roman Catholic Church, Megawati
will have to court the support of Indonesias powerful Muslim
clerics, who are allied with Wahid.
Filipinos, who know how tough it can be to revive an economy and nurture
a fragile democracy, can only wish Megawati success in her governance.
The protracted unrest in Indonesia can make it harder for Asia to
recover from the latest global economic slowdown.
As recent years have shown, a fire in one country can quickly
engulf its neighbors, turning into a regional conflagration.