Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Singapore's report on Pak Lah

Singapore Straits Times report....

April 14, 2008
M'sia's PM refuses to quit, says he will contest his party's leadership


KUALA LUMPUR - MALAYSIA'S PREMIER Abdullah Ahmad Badawi says he will not resign and will seek re-election as his party's leader in December.
Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi told reporters on Monday there is no reason for him not to contest the post of the president of the ruling United Malays National Organisation (Umno) party.
The party will hold its annual general assembly and elections for office bearers in December.
Mr Abdullah indicated to the party last week that he will hand power eventually to his deputy, Mr Najib Razak.
But Mr Abdullah said on Monday that he will discuss the succession plans only after December.
The comments indicate that Mr Abdullah is willing to defy critics in the party who want him to resign soon.
Earlier, reports of a growing revolt within Umno following last month's poll disaster has fed speculation that Mr Abdullah Badawi may be forced to throw in the towel sooner rather than later.
Some Umno leaders have told him to immediately unveil a succession plan, ignoring his protestations that he would not leave without a fight.
The chorus of calls for his resignation suggested he would not remain as PM for more than a few months, one Western diplomat said.
'If he goes, he goes early,' said Dr James Chin, a political scientist at Monash University's Malaysia campus.
'I suspect he will go this year. Everywhere he goes, the delegates are telling him to reconsider his position and prepare for a smooth transition of power.'
For the first time in 40 years, the opposition denied Mr Abdullah's ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition a two thirds parliamentary majority and seized control of five states in the election, spelling trouble for his future leadership.
There are many reasons why many within and outside Umno are reluctant to wait a few more months.
A protracted leadership tussle and a deep split in Umno - the bulwark of the coalition - would heighten Malaysia's political risks, hamper policy-making and further delay moves to reform the fuel subsidy system that is draining national finances.
The main stock index has fallen by nearly 5 per cent since the March 8 polls, with the nation's largest listed firm, Sime Darby losing nearly 20 per cent, on political worries.
Following the election, Mr Abdullah has been snubbed twice by the country's largely ceremonial Malay sultans. His slimmer, new-look cabinet has yet to make any impact and his popularity rating has slumped to a record low.
The US$200 billion (S$272 billion) economy, South-east Asia's third largest, is starting to cool following a fallout from the US slowdown while rising food prices could spark widespread anger.
'From the policy front, it is also doubtful that the government can remove the food and energy subsidies as originally envisioned,' HSBC said in a report released late last month.
'It is likely that the government's finances will slip further as it runs bigger deficits to maintain the economic expansion.'
RED CARPET
Another push-factor for Mr Abdullah, 68, is opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim.
Mr Anwar's political comeback could pose a big headache for the PM and his coalition, already facing a more independent-minded parliament and closer scrutiny by the country's constitutional monarch.
From April 15, Mr Anwar will be allowed to run for office again when a five-year ban, imposed following an earlier conviction for corruption, expires.
Mr Anwar, 60, said last week he would not immediately run in a by-election but would help strengthen the opposition People's Alliance, which snared 82 parliamentary seats and controls five of Malaysia's 13 states.
Some Umno grassroots' leaders have warned that Umno must take Datuk Seri Anwar's challenge seriously. It would need just 30 Barisan MPs to defect and cause the government to fall.
'Umno and Barisan Nasional are now deemed to be quite irrelevant, so I would certainly appeal to them to join the People's Alliance,' a confident Mr Anwar said after meeting his Parti Keadilan's lawmakers at the weekend. The hotel where the event was held rolled out a red carpet to welcome him.
The loudest calls for Mr Abdullah's ouster have come from his outspoken predecessor, Dr Mahathir Mohamad. The 82-year-old, still widely respected in Umno, said Mr Abdullah should immediately quit or face a challenge for Umno's presidency in December.
By tradition, the Umno leader is the prime minister.
Trade Minister Muhyiddin Yassin, 61, - the No. 3 in Umno - has also emerged as a critic of Mr Abdullah.
'I think the grassroots are boiling with utter dissatisfaction. If changes don't happen in Umno, many adverse things will surface,' he said in an interview published by the Umno-controlled Mingguan Malaysia newspaper at the weekend.
Mr Abdullah has publicly endorsed his deputy, Mr Razak, as his successor, in a bid to prepare for his eventual exit and to keep the DPM as his running mate in the December party elections, if he is still around by then.
He has so far kept his cards close to his chest on the timing of his eventual departure. 'There are certain things that I like to do now. I cannot leave at a time when the party is in this condition.' - REUTERS, AP

Can Pak Lah proof them wrong?

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