Habibie's Half-Baked Cabinet

  • Share
  • Read Later
JAKARTA: How's Habibie doing? The new Indonesian president's cabinet appointments -- seen as the first test of Suharto's sucessor and his ability to survive -- drew a lukewarm response when they were unveiled here Friday morning. Out: Suharto golf buddy Mohammed "Bob" Hasan, as well as the former president's extremely unpopular daughter Tutut. Still in: Foreign Minister Ali Alatas, Economic Minister Ginanjar Kartasasmita. TIME Jakarta correspondent Terry McCarthy rates Habibie's cabinet a C-minus: "It's only halfway there," he says. "There's a lot of academics, and a few minor cronies. It wasn't brilliantly done." Habibie did craftily avoid making a move against his military bête noire, Defense Minister General Wiranto. "If he fired Wiranto now," McCarthy points out, "he would have split the military."

More importantly, the students aren't happy. "Bring down Habibie! Put Suharto on trial!" chanted a 1,500-strong youth group in the first major protest since Suharto's resignation. Over a thousand Habibie supporters also took to the streets Friday -- which suggests that the former veep must be doing something right. But half an endorsement isn't good enough, considering the economic tidal wave that's about to hit Habibie's shores. "Because he's not going to have support from across the board," says McCarthy, "it's hard to see how he's going to weather that." Habibie had better update his online résumé while he has the chance.