Malaysian Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi has rejected the opposition’s claim it has enough support to seize power, saying he is “here to stay” and opposition has the right to dream. Anwar Ibrahim’s deadline to show enough majority of parliamentarians to his side closed on 16 Sept. The failure, according to some, showed that Anwar was a leader with no credibility. Ruling circles slam Anvar’s tactics, saying his actions had also brought nothing but problems to the people and country.
Malaysia – Facing a resurgent opposition and fresh defections from his ruling coalition, Malaysian Prime Minister said on Sept 16 that he might relinquish power to his deputy earlier than planned. Abdullah, who earlier announced plans step down in mid-2010, said he still intends to defend his post as the ruling party’s leader in a December ballot. But Badawi, facing criticism over a spate of detentions without trial, insisted he remained in charge. Abdullah said when asked if Anwar’s efforts would compel him to quit. “Do you think he would ask for a meeting with me to discuss a transition? He would storm into my room with hundreds behind him, shouting victory. This is Anwar’s style,” he told a news conference on 16 Sept.
Abdullah, meanwhile, ceded control of the Finance Ministry to Deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak, and said he was taking over the less crucial Defense Ministry from Najib. The announcement is apparently aimed at appeasing dissidents who have demanded Abdullah’s early resignation after the ruling National Front coalition got its worst election results in the 51 years it has been in power since Malaysia gained independence from Britain in 1957, sliding from the two-thirds majority it enjoyed for decades. The National Front won a simple majority in the 222-member Parliament in March elections. The Front also lost control of five of Malaysia‘s 13 states to Anwar’s People’s Alliance coalition.
Anwar has been promising to oust the government for months, following large opposition gains at a general election in March. On 16 Sept, he said he had more than enough pledges of support. “It is increasing by the hour. I am not joking,” Anwar said, according to AP news agency – but he failed to name any of his new supporters. Anwar needs 30 MPs to cross the floor to join its 82-strong bloc and seize a majority in the 222-member assembly.
The opposition is meantime keeping up its pressure on Abdullah. Anwar Ibrahim said on Sept 16 he was on the verge of toppling the government through parliamentary defections. He claimed he had pledges of support from more than 31 National Front lawmakers ready to defect to the People’s Alliance. Anwar refuses to divulge their names, and Abdullah has rejected the claim as a “mirage” Opposition lawmaker Tian Chua said the People’s Alliance would give Abdullah “a few days” to voluntarily hand power to the opposition to ensure a peaceful transition.
Anwar claimed he had more than enough pledges of support from defecting government lawmakers to form a new administration. He said he wanted to meet Abdullah to discuss a handover of power. Anvar’s efforts did attract a few members of the Parliament. On Sept 17, the Sabah Progressive Party, a small member of the 14-party National Front, quit the coalition. The party has two members in Parliament, and its exit reduces the National Front’s majority to just 56 at a time when opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim is trying to seize power. The party said it will remain independent for now but did not rule out joining Anwar, claiming that Abdullah’s coalition “has lost its moral authority to rule.”
On Sept 14, one member of the government resigned, in protest at the government’s use of draconian security legislation to jail one opposition member of parliament, Zaid Ibrahim, one blogger and a journalist on the weekend. The journalist has since been released, but did not link his resignation to Anwar’s campaign, and reports say Abdullah has refused to accept it.
Anwar’s opposition coalition has huge momentum behind it, but in spite of the pledge it was unlikely that he would be in power by the end of Tuesday, says the BBC’s Robin Brant in Kuala Lumpur. Anwar has increased pressure on the government – but adds that the same party has controlled Malaysia since it was founded 51 years ago. However, there is no doubt the government is struggling, he says – and there is a growing sense that this could be the final act.
Anwar appeared to be a spent force 10 years ago when he was jailed for corruption and sodomy. He is facing renewed allegations of sodomy which he insists are part of a political smear campaign. He has yet to name any members of the government who have promised to defect to him. Rooted in deep corruption, he says that any government led by him would focus on rooting out corruption, and bringing new fairness to all of Malaysia‘s races, not only the politically dominant Malays. Hence the non-Malay politicians support him to pull down Badawi.
Abdullah Badawi today reminded Malaysians not to act according to their emotions following the many issues taking place as reported by the mass media of late. The Prime Minister also advised the people not to be easily influenced by the reports. “Exercise self control. Don’t become easily confused, shocked or panic and do not be swayed by emotions,” he said at a breaking of the fast gathering at the Al-Jamiul Badawi mosque here. He said everyone should think carefully before reacting to a certain issue. Abdullah also reminded Muslims to exercise prudence during the month of Ramadan.
Abdullah accused Anwar of confusing the public and causing “total uncertainty.” He said Anwar had “become a threat not only to our economy but possibly also of security.” Abdullah pledged to deal with Anwar “in the best interest of the country and the people,” but did not say whether this means using a law allowing for imprisonment without trial that is invoked against people regarded as national security threats.
Despite the fact the Barisan government lost its two-thirds parliamentary majority in March for the first time since independence over half a century ago, it did win majority in the parliament. A two-third majority is not a must to rule in Malaysia. Abdullah says that he cannot be bullied by the opposition just like that. He remains undeterred and says the government is strong, “we are here to stay”. His deputy Najib Razak, widely tipped to replace Abdullah, repeated the assurances. “I am confident that the Barisan government will continue to rule,” Najib said of the Barisan Nasional or National Front coalition, in which the United National Malays Organization (UMNO) is the leading component. Najib described Anwar’s campaign the politics of deception, deployed to deceive, and clearly it has not become a reality.
Umno Vice-President Datuk Seri Mohd Ali Rustam said the people should now get back to work rather than be engrossed in listening to Anwar’s theatrics about forming a new government. He said the time has come for the people to no longer pay attention to what Anwar had to say as it was only a waste of time. He asserted with the date Sept 16 coming to pass, it is clear that what has been mentioned (about forming new government) is just play-acting.
Ruling UMNO is expected to hold a meeting of its ruling council on Sept 17. In the days to come the opposition might think of intensifying its efforts to force Badawi to quit, but, most probably, without any success.