Abdurrahman Wahid came to power in October 1999 with an immense store of goodwill even though his fledgling National Awakening Party had garnered only 11 per cent of the vote in parliamentary polls. Mr Wahid was renowned as a tolerant democrat, a moderate Muslim and intellectual, and seen as one of the few people who dared to stand up to former strongman Suharto. Less than two years later, he is a politically isolated man, whose blindness and inability to govern have rendered him an almost pathetic figure. As Indonesia's first freely elected leader who came to power less than two years after Suharto's iron-fisted rule of 32 years, he faced a daunting task. Suharto had warped the state's institutions to ensure his regular re-election and produced a generation with no experience of open debate. Mr Wahid moved early on issues such as the liberalisation of Chinese cultural and religious expression and the release of political prisoners. Against the odds, he succeeded in sacking the former military chief and man accused of instigating the destruction of East Timor, Wiranto. He became a beacon of hope to minorities across the already fracturing nation and was trusted by separatist leaders in both Irian Jaya and, briefly, Aceh. The Christian minority saw him as their best protection against more radical Islamic political trends and Chinese businessmen supported his ideals even as they lamented his Government's contribution to a deteriorating economy. But within days of taking the presidency, Mr Wahid also began angering the people who gave him the job. He alienated the Muslim coalition in Parliament by calling for the opening of trade ties with Israel and for the decriminalisation of communism. He angered the armed forces by confirming their retreat to the barracks and relative loss of political clout. Mr Wahid outraged members of Golkar, some of whom had also supported his rise, by wielding the legal baton of corruption charges, threatening the possible abolition of the party itself. And Mr Wahid demonstrated his contempt for Parliament at an early appearance when he described it as a kindergarten. Throughout a series of cabinet reshuffles, he first sacked United Development Party boss Hamzah Haz, whose votes had also brought him to power. He compounded that move by sacking a leading member of the largest party in Parliament, Laksamana Sukardi of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle. Mr Sukardi is widely respected as a clean and committed businessman who could muster private-sector support for his economic policy-making. But Mr Sukardi refused to countenance an alleged deal Mr Wahid made with notorious textile tycoon Marimutu Sinivasan of the Texmaco group. That kind of compromise soon earned the ire of non-government organisations in Indonesia. All this was still not enough to sign Mr Wahid's political death warrant - that needed the enmity of vice-president Megawati Sukarnoputri. She won the parliamentary polls in June 1999, only to lose the top job to last-minute deal-making by her one-time 'elder brother' Mr Wahid. Though taking her relegation to second place with outward good grace, Ms Megawati then embarked on a steep learning curve about the realities of Jakarta's vicious politics and came to regret the trust she placed in Mr Wahid as he regularly embarrassed and derided her. 'No one made it easy for Wahid. He faced an impossible task and we cannot underestimate the size of the challenges before him,' said an expert and author on Indonesian politics. 'But he squandered his goodwill recklessly through a combination of overwhelming arrogance and a patent failure to govern. He gave too many treats to his own family of Muslim leaders. He couldn't even run a grocery store.'