Wahid ‘Prepared to Return’

JAKARTA ~ Former president Abdurrahman Wahid will fight for his old job in the 2009 elections if asked by Muslim clerics, he told the country’s largest Islamic movement this week.

The ex-president, who is clinically blind, was booted out of office in July 2001 following unproven allegations of corruption and incompetence.

But he said he would run for election again if asked by five respected ulemas, or Islamic teachers, from the conservative 30-million-strong Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) movement.

“I am ready (to run) if I am given the order by the elders. They number five, but I will not mention names,” Wahid, who is better known as Gus Dur, was quoted as saying on the NU website.

He said that one ulema had already asked him to make another presidential bid.

As a former NU chairman and head of its board of patrons, as well as a senior leader in his National Awakening Party, Wahid’s announcement means it is highly likely he will be nominated by the party for the leadership.

Wahid, 67, a moderate religious scholar who was criticized while in office for his erratic leadership style, said he had ideas to address the challenges facing the world’s most populous Muslim nation, but did not elaborate.

Wahid defeated Megawati Sukarnoputri to scoop the presidency in 1999, even though her party put in the strongest showing in a general election earlier that year.

She replaced him after his tumultuous dismissal by lawmakers.

Indonesia held its first direct elections for president and vice president in 2004, with the next set for 2009. Wahid did not run in 2004.

The former president, who has suffered two strokes and is diabetic, is the second ex-president to signal their readiness to be nominated for the 2009 election.

Megawati, daughter of Indonesia’s first president Sukarno, told members of her Indonesian Democracy Party for Struggle (PDI-P) last week that she was prepared to run, meaning she is virtually assured of their nomination.

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