The Writing is on the Wall

BN is on its way out. Former PM Mahathir is blaming his hand-picked successor for the appalling BN performance – BN won only 63% of the seats in Parliament, compared to 91% in 2004. The person in the background who would lead the opposition to continue sweeping away BN’s domination would be Anwar Ibrahim, the very same BN lieutenant whom Mahathir persecuted and prosecuted almost a decade ago. There is such thing as karma in politics.

I also hope Singapore is on good terms with Anwar as he could just become PM, a post snatched away from him, within the next decade.

Monday, March 10, 2008

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia: Malaysia’s prime minister took the oath of office for a new five-year term Monday, rejecting calls to resign after unprecedented electoral setbacks eroded the ruling coalition’s two-thirds majority and shook the country’s political landscape.

Abdullah Ahmad Badawi was sworn in at 11.10 a.m. local time (0310 GMT) in front of King Mizan Zainal Abidin, the constitutional monarch, and dozens of government dignitaries in the national palace’s glittering throne room.

“I pledge to carry out my duties honestly and with all my abilities,” Abdullah said, reading out the oath. “I pledge to protect and uphold the Constitution.”

Dressed in all-black Malay attire — cap, collar-less shirt and loose pants with a swath of gold embroidered cloth wrapped around the waist — Abdullah arrived at the place with his wife, Jeanne, for the simple ceremony that was nationally telecast.

He smiled occasionally, mingling with guests after the ceremony, belying the stress and tensions of the last two days when he was confronted with the biggest political crisis of his life.

Abdullah’s National Front ruling coalition secured a fresh mandate in general elections Saturday, but lost its two-thirds parliamentary majority and relinquished control of five of Malaysia’s 13 states to the opposition. The opposition alliance now has 82 seats in the 222 member Parliament, a massive jump from its 19 seats in the outgoing house.

The result was the coalition’s worst electoral performance in the 51 years that it has governed Malaysia following independence from Britain in 1957. Scores of senior National Front officials lost their seats in the federal and state legislatures.

The stunning electoral upheaval was the outcome of simmering racial tensions, income disparities, inflation, rising crime and anger against the enrichment of the ruling elite. Analysts see it as the foothold that the resurgent opposition needs to eventually break the National Front’s stranglehold over power.

“A two-party system seems likely to evolve from the outcome of this general election,” wrote Wong Chun Wai, the editor of the pro-government Star daily, in his newspaper Monday.

“The first page of the new Malaysian political era opens today. Certainly, the elections may have ended but the drama has only just started. Stay tuned,” he wrote.

Abdullah told supporters who gathered at his official residence in Putrajaya, Malaysia’s administrative capital, late Sunday that he believed he still commanded the loyalty of coalition members.

“I will not step down from any post because I feel no pressure,” Abdullah said.

Still, Malaysians hailed the elections as a victory for democracy in a country that has been long used to the semi-authoritarian governments, including the 22-year rule of Mahathir Mohamad, who stepped down in 2003 after hand-picking Abdullah to replace him.

Mahathir, however, turned against Abdullah two years later and became his most bitter critic.

On Sunday, Mahathir called for Abdullah’s resignation, saying his successor “has destroyed” the National Front.

Mahathir has limited clout now in the ruling United Malays National Organization, the dominant party in the National Front, but his call was echoed by his son Mukhriz, an active party member.

Mukhriz Mahathir told The Associated Press he would hold a news conference later Monday with other UMNO members to demand Abdullah’s resignation.

“The message is clear from the results of the elections. That’s the voice of the people. We have to respect it. It is a very humbling experience and points to dissatisfaction of the prime minister’s leadership,” he said.

Mukhriz is the first UMNO member to openly demand Abdullah’s resignation, and his views could signal the beginning of an internal revolt.

Senior government lawmaker Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah stopped short of calling for Abdullah’s head. But he called the defeat a “historic crisis.”

“The leadership team must wake from its slumber, face the truth and accept full responsibility for this debacle,” he said.

However, other coalition leaders sought to show a united stance.

Deputy Information Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said “there is no doubt or question at all in the top ranks” that Abdullah should continue to lead the coalition and country.

“There is no one person to blame for what happened. We all are taking the collective responsibility,” Ahmad Zahid told The Associated Press.


2 responses

  1. Pingback: Daily SG: 11 Mar 2008 « The Singapore Daily

  2. Pingback: SGDaily Roundup: Week 11 « The Singapore Daily

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