Sunday, March 16, 2008

Pak Lah's Days As PM Are Numbered - Analysts

Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi has defiantly claimed a mandate to rule despite unprecedented election losses, but observers say he is on borrowed time as calls for his resignation persist.

"I will run the government. I'm in charge," Abdullah said in a television interview a week after his Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition was humbled by the loss of four states and a third of parliamentary seats.

"I do not believe that with a majority less than two-thirds we become incapable or incapacitated or we become lifeless and cannot do anything else," he said late Saturday.

After securing the support of his party, the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) which leads the coalition, he has made plans to unveil a new cabinet and implement a series of mega-projects.

Abdullah admitted that Malaysians were disappointed with his administration, which was criticised as weak and unable to deliver on promises made ahead of 2004 polls which he won in a landslide.

"People are unhappy over what has transpired over the last four years since I took over," he said in another nationally broadcast interview Friday.

"I accept in good faith the decision of the people," he said, noting that seething racial tensions, inflation and rising crime rates had led to voters punishing him in the polls.

Just before Friday's address, the son of former premier Mahathir Mohamad wrote to Abdullah calling on him to quit, in the first open sign of revolt from within UMNO.

"I feel that Abdullah has to take responsibility for our losses and that the honourable thing to do is to withdraw," said Mukhriz Mahathir, who is a member of UMNO's powerful youth wing.

Mahathir has also pushed for Abdullah to step down, accusing him of "destroying" the ruling party and the coalition, and saying he regretted selecting him for the top job when he stood down in 2003.

Pressure on the premier is also coming from UMNO's rank-and-file who have signed up to a petition for him to quit posted on a pro-Mahathir website.

Anlaysts said Abdullah's days as prime minister are numbered and that if he refused to step down he would likely be challenged at UMNO's internal elections later this year.

"He's a lame duck prime minister," said Bridget Welsh, a Southeast Asia expert from Johns Hopkins University who observed the elections.

"The reality is the business community is looking at him and thinking, how long will he stay there, and the longer he stays it's going to introduce more uncertainty."

Farish Noor from the Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore said Abdullah's government was punished for failing to deliver on its big reform promises in the last 2004 polls.

"Abdullah dug his own grave by promising more than he could chew on. He could have saved himself by delivering at least half of it," he told AFP.

"I strongly suspect that moves will be made at the upcoming UMNO general assembly to force Abdullah to step down."

The premier is expected to unveil a new cabinet within days, and observers are watching closely to see if his promises of a fresh new line-up will be realised.

Mohammad Agus Yusoff, a political analyst from the National University of Malaysia said the political upheaval should prompt Abdullah to make difficult reforms. "He is on the right track if he is thinking of revamping the BN and its policies. The country will benefit from this scenario," he said.

Welsh said however that while investor confidence may be bolstered by fresh faces in the government, Abdullah may be exposing himself to further challenges.

"The minute he removes older faces he weakens himself further with more infighting and leadership challenges," she said.

***** It looks like Pak Lah's position in the party and government has become increasingly untenable and one must wonder how he will attempt to stave off challenges to his authority. While it is only right for the top man to take responsibility for the electoral loss and resign, the very thought of a Najib-ruled Malaysia is indeed frightening. We may, for all you know be heading towards a Mahathir-style administration, replete with practices and abuses of a bygone dictatorial era in our history, absolute intolerance and unbending allegiance to racial discrimination.
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6 Comments:

Blogger walski69 said...

I for one wouldn't demand anything from Pak Lah, per se... The prerogative is his. I would, however, suggest to him to carefully consider the situation he's in.

He's been the quintessential political survivor, but perhaps his modus operandi (of soliciting pity) may not work this time around. He can still salvage his career in politics, if he wants to, but has to make some painful choices in the months to come.

I suspect, like many, what I see as the feigned support given to him by his UMNO sycophanatics is a front to unceremoniously disgrace him during the coming General Assembly later in the year. I don't know whom he gets his advice from these days, but I do hope, for his sake, that rationality and common sense prevail, and not allow the feel good ampu-titis that BN has been thriving on the last 4 years, to go to his head - which will lead him head-first towards certain political suicide.

The first thing that Pak Lah should realize, and publicly ackowledge, is that we are now experiencing a seismic shift in Malaysia's political landscape.

We'll have to wait, I think, until he announces the new cabinet. That will be the benchmark to determine what lies ahead for the old man, me thinks.

Rebuilding BN in the pre-March 8th mould is not going to make the coalition any stronger. Similarly, while your fears about what a Najib-led administration may bring are very valid, I think that if Najib doesn't wake up and smell the reality of our post-March 8th Malaysia, he too may be slowly threading down that rocky road towards political hara-kiri.

Then again, what do I know? Heh heh...

4:50 PM GMT+8  
Blogger bayi said...

Pak Lah worked himself into a corner, advised badly by his SIL who was blinded by ambition.

Believing in the invincibility of his position, he declared, "Saya pantang dicabar!" This incensed most of the rakyat who saw a man engrossed in his own self-styled arrogance.

walski69 is right. We cannot and should no demand anything more from Pak Lah. He has his own battles to fight. And the prerogative is definitely his. He has a lot of burdens to unload that become more difficult for him to do so as each day passes without a clear direction from him.

Simply clinging on to power is not the answer. So what is the answer. It's complex. The naswer must come from him.

It's almost too late for Pak Lah to stop the tide, which is now coming from within UMNO rather than outside. Those who have declared loyalty to him may be the very ones plotting his downfall. These are the cunning ones who choose to work in secret, whereas Mukhriz has chosen to voice openly what every UMNO member is dying to say. However, it's easier for Mukhriz, it's easier to do this, since his father is none other than Dr Mahathir.

8:48 PM GMT+8  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A wounded old lion can be dangerous. I hope none will use the racial card to stir up trouble. I received a text msg saying that his beloved son-in-law, PM in waiting is coming to Pg to meet the umNO. I don't know how true it is but what's disturbing is how the msg ended, asking people to stay home and stock up food!

9:08 PM GMT+8  
Blogger kittykat46 said...

You may want to add the possible use of murder and other criminal activity for political purposes....leading the country towards a dictartoship in all but name.

9:57 PM GMT+8  
Anonymous SM said...

I hope they are wrong!
Yes, if his deputy takes over, then we are done for!
Pak Lah made the mistake of listening to the wrong people (especially his son-in-law).
He however has the chance of doing something now. He should just get rid of all of them!
Change them out one & all starting with his deputy.
Will he do it? No he won't!

10:13 PM GMT+8  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How about do what his predecessor did, turn all attention on his deputy. It'll be easy--just lay murder charges, or accessory to murder, which will be easily convincing given the explosives and all. When that guy is done, work on The Kris Guy, who's hated by all anti-racists in the country. Then when that Kris Guy is done, it'll be up to the Old Man's son-in-law and the Recalcitrant Old Man's son to fight it out.

7:14 AM GMT+8  

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