Badawi faces challenge to leadership in Malaysia

March 21st, 2008 - 1:50 pm ICT by admin  

Kuala Lumpur, March 21 (IANS) Emerging victorious but weak from this month’s general elections, Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi is facing his first challenge from within the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO). The challenger is a former finance minister, who had had made an unsuccessful attempt in 1987 to take on Badawi’s predecessor Mahathir Mohamad.

Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah, 71, who in the March 12 elections retained his parliamentary seat that he has won since 1969, has said he would challenge Badawi and has demanded a party meeting.

Barisan Nasional, the ruling coalition of which is UMNO is a part, lost its comfortable two-thirds parliamentary majority after the election and was reduced to a simple majority.

UMNO needs “healing”, Hamzah was quoted as saying by The New Straits Times Friday.

He has offered himself to lead UMNO to “heal the party”, which he described to be “in a bad way”.

While acknowledging that his advancing age might be used against him, the 71-year-old former finance minister expressed willingness to take up the challenge if he was given the opportunity.

Hamzah said he was “young” when he challenged Mahathir and ever ready to challenge anyone with his ideas.

“Even though I am old but I am still strong. If there are enough nominations for me to contest in the UMNO election, I will give my service if I am needed.”

Hamzah described UMNO’s showing in the recent general election as the most painful and horrible moment in his political career.

Badawi, who won a second term as prime minister amid demands that he step down, is currently the UMNO chief and heads the Barisan Nasional.

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