Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Abdullah Risks Umno's 51-Year Grip On Malaysia By Staying Put

If Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi is politically doomed, he isn't acting like it.

Abdullah has come under pressure to step down since he last month led the United Malays National Organisation and its coalition partners to the smallest electoral victory since independence in 1957. Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim is seeking to court enough lawmakers to topple the government; Mahathir Mohamad, who hand-picked Abdullah as his successor after serving 22 years as prime minister, is leading calls for his ouster to protect UMNO's half-century grip on power.

Abdullah says he plans to stay put at least until party elections in December, fighting his detractors with policies to bolster popular support including larger gasoline subsidies for the poor and a new anti-corruption commission.

"What Abdullah is trying to do is buy a little bit more time,'' said Mohamed Mustafa Ishak, professor of politics at Universiti Utara Malaysia. "At best, he can delay his downfall.''

The coalition lost its two-thirds majority in the March 8 election for the first time since 1969, after which the government passed laws giving the ethnic Malay majority preferential treatment for college places, jobs and housing. Anwar, 60, focused his campaign on scrapping that system, which he says encourages corruption.

The race-based rules were introduced to help Malays catch up with ethnic Chinese business owners. Abdullah, 68, said last month the government will continue policies to close the gap.

Anwar's Candidacy

Anwar, a former deputy prime minister who was jailed on corruption charges he denied, led a three-party alliance to victory in five of Malaysia's 13 states. He plans to run for a seat in parliament now that a ban resulting from his jail sentence has expired.

"I can't see how UMNO can save itself,'' said Abdul Aziz Bari, a professor at the International Islamic University Malaysia. Abdullah "can't afford to delay'' his resignation, he said. "The writing's on the wall.''

Anwar's People's Alliance already scrapped racial quotas for tenders in states it controls. Under the current system, public universities give Malays easier entry than Chinese and Indians. Companies must also sell 30 percent of their shares to Malays and disclose how many they employ if they list on the stock market.

Najib Razak


Najib Razak, Abdullah's deputy, has stood by his boss and worked with him on the policy response. Najib, 54, said this month he has seen no signs that Anwar can tempt lawmakers to switch camps.

Abdullah's policy pledges "should have been carried out four years ago when he received the people's mandate to fight corruption,'' Anwar's People's Justice Party said in an April 22 statement. Abdullah won a landslide election victory in 2004.

His multiparty National Front coalition already faces declining support from Chinese and Indian minorities upset by the preference system.

Investment projects and business confidence in Malaysia have stalled since the election. The key stock index slumped the most in a decade on the first trading day after the result, and is down 15 percent from a January record.

In Penang, a west Malaysian state that fell to the opposition, the construction of a second bridge to the island has been delayed by nine months, state-run contractor UEM Builders Bhd. said this month.

Train Delay

The government also dropped a proposed 8 billion-ringgit ($2.5 billion) high-speed rail link to Singapore, state news service Bernama said April 23. Abdullah said last week that many projects are under review.

"Investors are cautious because it appears power is draining away from Abdullah by the day,'' said Song Seng-Wun, an economist at CIMB-GK Research in Singapore.

Mahathir started trying to remove Abdullah in 2006, accusing him of achieving nothing since taking office three years earlier. Trade and Industry Minister Muhyiddin Yassin said Abdullah should step down as UMNO head for the good of the party, Bernama reported April 13.

Party rules that Mahathir introduced require 30 percent of UMNO's 191 regional party offices to back a leadership change. That's a hurdle Abdullah's only public challenger to date, Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah, may struggle to clear, Aziz said.

Hard to Oust

In an April 4 speech, Razaleigh, a former finance minister, urged UMNO members to hold a special meeting to address what he called an "emergency'' in the party. "What we lack is leadership,'' Razaleigh said.

Abdullah's most immediate challenge is the prospect of a no- confidence vote in the new parliament, which convenes today.

"We opposition parties on our own won't have a big enough voice,'' said Lim Kit Siang, a lawmaker for the Democratic Action Party, part of Anwar's alliance. "We can move a motion, anyone can do so, but to get that vote on our own will be a problem.''

A more likely scenario is for disgruntled coalition lawmakers to abstain from voting on a minor bill, allowing the government to be defeated, said Andrew Aeria, a political analyst for Enterprise LSE, the commercial arm of the London School of Economics.

"If this happens, Abdullah's position would be untenable,'' Aeria said. The opposition could then bide its time before offering to "save the country,'' he said. (By Douglas Wong and Angus Whitley, Bloomberg)

***** The PM's decision to hang on to power may be bad for the racist ruling party, but in the interest of the nation and for continous racial harmony and peace, Pak Lah should stay on and God willing, oversee the demise of Umno. That'll be the biggest contribution he can make for the future of our country. We shall all be eternally grateful to him.

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10 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, Abdullah should stay on for the good of the people! Not withstanding his own lack of leadership,the previous antics of his son-in-law and his cronies etc at least post-election he has been somewhat conciliatory despite the rest of his UMNO leaders who still remain in a self-denial mode!

12:50 PM GMT+8  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hopefully Pak Lah will stay on until the PR takes over!
If Pak Lah steps down, who's going to take over? Yup, Mr. C4! How can we have a PM who has such "baggage" (i.e. murder or the hint of murder) with him? Since the the Baginda Court Case started, there have been hints of "all sorts of interference" & neither the Prosecution nor the Defence seems interested in calling Mr. DPM to testify. What are they trying to hide? He should come clean & clear his name. That way there will not be any hint of scandal when / if he takes over from Pak Lah!

2:39 PM GMT+8  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hopefully Pak Lah will stay on until the PR takes over!
If Pak Lah steps down, who's going to take over? Yup, Mr. C4! How can we have a PM who has such "baggage" (i.e. murder or the hint of murder) with him? Since the the Baginda Court Case started, there have been hints of "all sorts of interference" & neither the Prosecution nor the Defence seems interested in calling Mr. DPM to testify. What are they trying to hide? He should come clean & clear his name. That way there will not be any hint of scandal when / if he takes over from Pak Lah!

2:39 PM GMT+8  
Anonymous Ravemaran said...

Hopefully Pak Lah will stay on rather than give up to people who took him for granted. I wonder if Pak Lah is as strict as Tun, I'm afraid there might be some bloggers won't be able to blog today.

4:41 PM GMT+8  
Anonymous dvmartini said...

The writer has made one big mistake: the People's Alliance is not Anwar's. It belongs to the DAP, PKR and PAS parties. Anwar would like to make it sound like it is his alone, but without the others, there will be no Pakatan Rakyat.

9:14 PM GMT+8  
Anonymous goosebumpzy said...

Let's all be good malaysians and support pak lah! He was chosen in the first place for a reason. Stay on Pak Lah, we are with you!

9:35 PM GMT+8  
Blogger phillix-starscreamer said...

I dont see a reason for Pak Lah to step down. Only politicians with a hidden agenda and fearful of being caught should falter under such a situation. Stay strong, my fav leader!

9:46 PM GMT+8  
Anonymous Raja Shafiq said...

If Najib takes over, we are SO doomed. Pak Lah, please stay on for the sake of our lives!!!

9:48 PM GMT+8  
Anonymous abgkaiser said...

Has it ever occurred to anyone that maybe, just maybe, Pak Lah's delaying tactic is designed to ensure UMNO's demise. After all, 'the' family's coffers are already somewhat filled... or aren't they?

11:48 PM GMT+8  
Blogger farzain said...

I am amazed by the support of these comments about Pak Lah. Yes, what is the use we want to slam him without fail about every single thing he does. The best we can do is support our PM at least until the next PM comes along.

Let's stay united, whatever it is! :)

10:25 AM GMT+8  

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