Najib Faces Rocky Road To Power
Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi moved on Thursday to calm a political storm by agreeing to hand over power to Najib Razak, giving some relief to investors jittery about Malaysia.
But Najib's road to the top may not be easy. A rift within his own United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) party, the lingering threat of the opposition seizing power and his own scandals could derail the plan and add to uncertainties.
"There's no certainty that Najib will take over," said Yahaya Ismail, an author of several books on Malaysian politics. "The plan will worsen internal squabbles in the party."
Malaysia's political outlook has been clouded since elections in March when surprisingly big gains by the opposition sparked fears of a sudden change in the government and policy.
"It's very important that the political situation settles down," said top banker Nazir Razak, who is Najib's younger brother. "I am sorry but I disagree with the DPM (Najib) when he said that international investor confidence is not affected."
Malaysia's main stock index rose 0.8 percent by midsession on Friday. It has lost 12 percent since March.
Analysts expect no major changes to policies under Najib.
"I doubt he will re-invent the wheels," said one economic strategist at a Malaysian listed company. "His priority is to consolidate his party and regain the faith of the Malays."
"I don't think there will be much change in terms of policies though I am not sure how committed he will be to reforming institutions," said another analyst, who declined to be named.
Abdullah, who faced calls to resign after the polls, said he wanted to ensure an orderly power transition.
"This potential end-game though still looks fuzzy for now," markets research firm IDEAglobal.com wrote in a note.
Muhyiddin Yassin, an UMNO vice-president strongly tipped to run for the No. 2 post, criticised the long transition period. "Some have expressed concern that if the duration is that long the situation will not become more convincing," he was quoted by the national Bernama news agency as saying.
Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim has also poured cold water on Abdullah's handover timeline, while ex-premier Mahathir Mohamad went one step further by saying that Najib would never become prime minister.
"Before the handover date arrives, allegations will be hurled against him so that he will be seen to be unfit to be the deputy prime minister," Mahathir wrote in his blog. "Someone seen to be more loyal to Abdullah will replace him," he said. (Reuters India)
***** Dr Mahathir has probably got it correct. The longer Najib has to wait, the more difficult it would be for him to become PM. Moreover we don't know how the Altantuya issue is going to develop. Does Anwar have more proof on this and other matters, as he claims?
In any case would the DPM be the best choice at a time when change for the better seems to be the desire of the people? The average Malaysian basically is fed-up with Umno's old-style, feudal, raced-based politics and Najib merely represents a continuation of that dirty brand of governing. Not that Muhyiddin or most of the other senior umnoputeras are any better.
What are the chances of getting an honest uniter from Umno to lead the nation? Depressingly low odds.
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