Umno Seeks To Ride Out Fuel Protests
The two-day meeting of the supreme council of United Malays National Organisation was meant to set out a blueprint to revitalise the party following the election in March.
But Abdullah has come under renewed pressure from the opposition over the 41 percent rise in petrol prices and the 63 percent increase for diesel.
UMNO is the backbone of the National Front coalition which has led Malaysia since independence in 1957. Supreme council members planned to "chart the party's future and formulate strategies to regain support", Bernama said.
But analysts said this week's price rises could trigger an early exit for Abdullah. State media said he was expected to attend the meeting's closing session on Friday.
"The fuel price hike makes it more difficult for the prime minister to conduct a smooth transition of power," said Hussin Mutalib, a political scientist who tracks Southeast Asian issues at the National University of Singapore. "There could be a push forward for him to leave fast."
The fuel rise is expected to lift average inflation to a 10-year high of 4.2 percent in 2008, central bank chief Zeti Akhtar Aziz said on Thursday, compared to last year's 2 percent.
The hike comes two months after the ruling coalition recorded its worst-ever performance in a general election during its 50-year rule.
Angered by the rising cost of living and growing racial and religious conflict, Malaysians voted to hand control of five of the country's 13 states to the opposition in the poll.
There was a small protest against the fuel hike in the capital on Thursday and the opposition plans a bigger protest after Muslim prayers on Friday.
Mustapa Mansor, chairman of Ikrar, a non-governmental organisation that is made up of opposition front members, said between 100 and 200 people were expected to take part in the protest ahead of a likely bigger demonstration next month.
***** Pak Lah finds himself in a lose-lose, damned if you do, damned if you don't situation. I don't envy him. Let's wait and see how Umno extricates itself from this mess.