ON 21 MAY 1998, INDONESIA'S AUTHORITARIAN PRESIDENT SUHARTO, in power since 1966, abruptly resigned from office and was succeeded by his vice-president, Bacharuddin Jusuf (B. J.) Habibie. Though retired for decades, Suharto was an army general and relied heavily on the support of the armed forces to rule this vast archipelago, the world's fourth largest country. Habibie is a civilian with long government service as minister of research and industry. President Suharto, Habibie often claimed, taught him everything he knew about politics.
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