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Former Indonesian President Abdurrahman Wahid Dies


Better known as Gus Dur to his constituents, the late Muslim cleric was Indonesia's first democratically elected president. He came to power in 1999 following the fall of military strongman Suharto in 1998.

Former Indonesian President Abdurrahman Wahid, known as a champion of democracy and moderate Islam, died Wednesday at the age of 69.

Former Indonesian president Abdurrahman Wahid died in a hospital on Wednesday at the age of 69, , after a long struggle with strokes, diabetes and near blindness.

Better known as Gus Dur to his constituents, the late Muslim cleric was Indonesia's first democratically elected president. He came to power in 1999 following the fall of military strongman Suharto in 1998.

He was preceded by former Vice President Baharudin Jusuf Habibie, who became president for little more than a year after Suharto resigned. Habibie says President Wahid was a key figure in Indonesia's transition to democracy.

He says Wahid promoted pluralism as the key to peace and prosperity in Indonesia.

Political analyst Sunny Tanuwidjaja with the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Jakarta says Wahid was a strong advocate for religious freedom and diversity.

"I think his liberal thinking, his progressive thinking in regards to religious freedom and religious life in Indonesia is something that we are going to miss very much," he said.

But President Wahid political skills were not as highly regarded. He was criticized for his erratic leadership style and was removed from office by the national assembly in 2001 amid unproven allegations of corruption and incompetence.

The exact cause of death was not immediately released.

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