Malaysian PM to Quit Next March
KUALA LUMPUR ~ Malaysia’s Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said this week he will step down next March and hand power to his deputy, ending months of uncertainty since disastrous general elections.
Abdullah has been under intense pressure to quit since leading the Barisan Nasional coalition to its worst polls performance in half a century, losing a third of parliamentary seats and five states to the opposition.
The premier said he expected his United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), which leads the multi-racial coalition, to select Deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak for the top job in a leadership vote next March.
“I will hand over power to… Najib after he wins the election at the general assembly. I am sure he will win,” Abdullah told a press conference on Wednesday, calling on the party to halt months of destructive bickering.
“It is not the time for us to indulge in infighting or engage in narrow politics, it is now time for us to strengthen our unity and co-operate among ourselves and place the interests of the country above all.”
The president of UMNO – which has dominated Malaysian politics since independence from Britain in 1957 – by tradition automatically becomes prime minister of the country.
Abdullah, 68, originally wanted to hand over to Najib in mid-2010 but was forced to review his departure date as he lost support from the ruling party’s grassroots, which was stunned by the March election results.
He also faced a challenge from opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, who says he has enough support from defecting lawmakers to topple the government, but is being blocked from forming a new administration.
Abdullah came to power in 2003 and was initially buoyed by a groundswell of support for his promises of reform after two decades of hardline rule under veteran premier Mahathir Mohamad.
However, he was quickly seen as weak and ineffective after failing to tackle corruption, high crime rates and inefficient bureaucracy that he had vowed to address.