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Indonesia's Wahid Files Lawsuit Over Election Disqualification - 2004-05-25

A former Indonesian president has sued the country's election commission for more than $100 million for barring him from this year's presidential elections.

Former President Abdurrahman Wahid, who is better known as Gus Dur in Indonesia, has had a number of strokes and is very little vision left. Last week he failed a new health test for prospective candidates for July's presidential race.

Despite a flurry of legal challenges, he has failed to have the decision barring him from the election overturned. So, he has sued the election commission, known as the KPU, the health ministry, and the Indonesian doctor's association for nearly $110 million.

The head of the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Jakarta, Hadi Soeastro, says it was a mistake to bar Mr. Wahid.

"I think it was not necessary," he said. "In fact, I thought the KPU should allow him to run and allow the people to decide. I think the people do know about the qualities of Abdurrahman Wahid, because he has been in that position before."

The 65-year-old Mr. Wahid lost the presidency in 2001, when he was impeached for mismanagement after 20 months of erratic leadership. His presidency wreaked havoc with attempts to calm the country after the downfall of disgraced President Suharto in 1998. He also struck down a number of statutes that President Suharto had used to limit the freedom of Indonesia's ethnic minorities.

Mr. Wahid has never accepted his fall from office. He remains popular among some sections of society for his Islamic scholarship and family connections to the founder of Indonesia's largest Islamic organization, Nahadlatul Ulama.

Although he was fourth in presidential election public opinion polls, he remains a significant player in Indonesian politics. In the legislative elections last month, his party won more than 10 percent of the vote. His younger brother, Salahuddin, is the vice-president candidate for the country's biggest political party, Golkar.