Will more follow Mahathir out of Malaysia’s ruling party?

May 20th, 2008 - 3:18 pm ICT by admin  

Kuala Lumpur, May 20 (IANS) Former Malaysian prime minister Mahathir Mohamad’s exit from the ruling United Malay National Organisation (UMNO) may be “a final push” to force his successor and current incumbent Abdullah Ahmad Badawi to step down, media reports said. Quoting politicians and academics, the media speculated that more people may quit the party that is the backbone of the ruling coalition Barisan Nasional (BN) and has 79 of the 140 seats in Dewan Rakyat, the country’s parliament.

A likely exodus from the UMNO could end up helping the opposition. Former deputy prime minister Anwar Ibrahim, who heads an opposition alliance, needs only 30 people to cross over to his side to be able to form a government, The Sun newspaper said.

There has been no reaction from Ibrahim, who has been predicting a crisis in the ruling coalition Barisan Nasional that would reduce the Badawi government to a minority parliament by September this year.

“Dr Mahathir has been churning the ground to get party members to rebel against Abdullah’s leadership.

“But he has been frustrated that his calls to push Abdullah to resign have not snowballed the way that he had wanted,” the New Straits Times said Tuesday, quoting an unnamed political leader.

According to Professor Mohamed Mustaffa Ishak of Universiti Utara Malaysia, members eyeing division level posts would only follow in Mahathir’s footsteps if they failed in their bids.

Giving a different view, Tricia Yeoh, director of the Centre for Public Policy Studies, said: “It’s like pulling another brick out of the crumbling wall. Once Mahathir resigns, some others will too.”

Mahathir quit the UMNO, that he had joined at its inception in 1946, in a surprise move Monday.

He ruled Malaysia for 22 years and stepped down in 2003 when Badawi, his hand-picked successor, took office.

However, relations between the two soured soon and Mahathir became critical of Badawi and his government.

Badawi opted for early elections this year, cutting short his five-year tenure. The March 8 election, however, returned a weakened BN, losing its traditional two-thirds majority in parliament for the first time since independence.

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