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Some Call for No-Confidence Vote Against Indonesian Parliament Speaker - 2002-09-05

Some Indonesian politicians are calling for a no-confidence vote against the speaker of Parliament. Akbar Tandjung was convicted of corruption Wednesday.

Local media report that some lawmakers want to force Akbar Tandjung to step down as speaker of Parliament. Members of Indonesia's largest party, the People's Democratic Party of Struggle and the National Awakening Party, reportedly want a vote of no confidence against him.

Tandjung was sentenced to three years in prison Wednesday after a court convicted him of stealing $4 million in state funds. Prosecutors charge he used the money to finance his party's 1999 election campaign.

The speaker remains free while his lawyers appeal the conviction.

He says he did nothing wrong. Shortly after the verdict, Tandjung dismissed concerns about his political career.

The speaker says he doesn't want to talk about the politics of the future. He wants to talk about the problems in the legal process.

Tandjung refuses to step down as either speaker of Parliament or the head of his party, Golkar.

In recent years, few Indonesian leaders have resigned when their reputation has become tainted by scandal. Central Bank Governor Syahril Sabirin refused to leave his post despite a corruption conviction last year. That conviction was overturned last week. Former Defense Minister General Wiranto refused to step down despite legislators' calls for him to take responsibility for the deaths of protesters in 1998 - allegedly at the hands of the security forces he commanded.

Lawmakers did force former President Abdurrahman Wahid out of power last year, after an investigation began into his activities. Allegations Mr. Wahid was corrupt were never proven.

The Golkar party is the second largest in Parliament. Analysts say with Tandjung's conviction, the party will have to demonstrate its will to reform if it wants to remain a major force after Indonesia's next national elections in 2004.

President Megawati Sukarnoputri has relied on the Golkar's support to pass key legislation. So far, she has not commented on whether Tandjung should be removed as speaker.