In what would be one of the most bizarre curtain calls ever made by a politician, President Abdurrahman Wahid of Indonesia appeared briefly on the steps of his palace on the night of July 23rd 2001, wearing striped shorts, a polo T-shirt and sandals. With the help of a bodyguard and his daughter Yenni, who served as a personal aide to the half-blind and senile president, Wahid awkwardly waved at ever-dwindling supporters gathered on the other side of razor wire barricades.
Wahid’s impeachment earlier that day ended his erratic yet promising 2-year presidency. A cultured Muslim cleric who read widely (he was the only Muslim leader to defend Salman Rushdie) and loved Beethoven, Wahid ushered in an era of tolerance, promoted rights of minorities and of non-Muslims and apologized for Indonesian atrocities in East Timor.
Nonetheless, when Wahid–who died last week on 31st December 2009–inherited Indonesia in 1999, it was…
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