Wahid's trademark political skill has been keeping his enemies off-balance, divided and isolated. Although that's required 180-degree turnabouts on some policy questions, it's effectively neutralized most challenges thus far to his presidency an office he acquired only by his supreme skill at backroom politicking. Despite finishing a distant third in last spring's polls, Wahid managed to shut out the presumptive president, Megawati Sukarnoputri, by cobbling together a voting bloc of Islamic parties and Suharto supporters, and then immediately headed off the violent reaction in the streets by naming Megawati as his deputy. But while he's almost improbably acquired the support of the military against Wiranto, keeping the generals on board could prove a tough challenge. With separatist and religious violence threatening to break apart the fractious archipelago state, the military remains the only truly national institution binding together disparate islands whose only point in common is a history of colonization by the Dutch. And many generals remain wary of Wahid's attempts to rein in the military and seek political rather than security solutions to the escalating violence. Still, Wahid appears to have a knack for turning any commander who emerges as a potential coup leader into a very lonely guy.
President Abdurrahman Wahid may be a picture of physical frailty, but he fights smart as former military leader General Wiranto discovered Sunday. Wiranto, who had defied Wahid's order to step down as minister for security, was summarily suspended from the cabinet Sunday, even though the president had indicated only a day earlier that the general could remain in office pending the outcome of an official investigation into his role in last year's East Timor violence. The standoff had fueled rumors of a coup against Wahid, who had asked for the resignation of Wiranto the military leader who engineered the ouster of former dictator Suharto while on a two-week world tour pitching Indonesia to foreign investors. But Wahid appears to have moved skillfully and stealthily to isolate his security minister from his former comrades in arms, courting generals and reshuffling the top command to the point where Wiranto would have been unable to order up a coup.