Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Prequel to Talks on the Ground

Read this article from Malaysia Insider. It is a prequel to this blog's next posting on rumours in UMNO on the leadership and election of party office bearer, "Talk on the Ground".

In UMNO, whats appeared hides a lot of actual behind-the-scene. And, rumours may actually be true.

So, is he going... or staying?

Malaysia Insider, 8th December 2008

DEC 8 — Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang says that Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi should only step down as Prime Minister once he has fulfilled his slew of promises to Malaysians.

Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah says that Abdullah can stay on as Prime Minister even if he is no longer the Umno president.

Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad says that there is every possibility that Abdullah will go back on his word and remain in the top job after party elections in March.

What's happening? What is driving this sudden examination and speculation of Abdullah's options? Is Abdullah reconsidering his retirement plans?

The short answer to the last question appears to be NO. Sources told The Malaysian Insider that Abdullah has already made plans for his post-Prime Minister days. He will shift out of Seri Perdana and move into a kampung-style house in Sungai Penchala, on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur. As for filling up his retirement days, he has told his friends that he would like to spend time strengthening ties between Malaysia and the Middle East.

His staff members are also looking ahead and counting the days. Some of them are scouting for employment while members of the security detail will return to the general pool. The consensus is that Abdullah is at peace with the decision to hand over power to Datuk Seri Najib Razak at the party annual assembly in March 2009.

"He seems much happier than he was in the last few months. The mess after the March elections really weighed him down, with calls for him to step down and the back-biting and political back-stabbing. Now he looks relaxed and healthier… I think he accepts that his time is up, '' said a senior Umno official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Will he change his mind? No, says his supporters and friends. They say that it is important for Abdullah to be remembered as a man of his word. Also, he does not have a clinical streak in him or the temperament to go against convention, all very necessary tools if he wants to hold onto to the premiership beyond March.

After he has ushered in the legislation for the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission Bill, the Judicial Appointments Commission and the special tribunal for enforcement agencies and widened the social security net to cover more than 100,000 households, he will step down. But this will not stop speculation by the cheerleaders from the sidelines or the doubters.

Pas president Abdul Hadi said that the Islamic party would like Abdullah to stay on as Prime Minister until his main tasks were fulfilled. He noted that the MCAC had not been tabled in Parliament while the other reforms which the Prime Minister promised Malaysians were only in infancy stage.

He also felt that Abdullah should overhaul the Election Commission which still was not credible in the eyes of many Malaysians. "He should only go after overcoming the weaknesses and shortcomings of this body which oversees elections, '' said the MP for Marang.

Not difficult to see why Hadi has suddenly become a fan of Abdullah's. He and other Opposition politicians know that there will be chaos in Umno and Barisan Nasional if Abdullah does not vacate his office in Putrajaya as planned. Pakatan Rakyat politicians sense that with the transition issue settled, Umno seems to have become a more settled political animal, a more dangerous foe. Nurturing the idea of Abdullah staying on as Prime Minister will certainly help knock the party off its stride and keep it unbalanced for some time to come.

Last week, Tengku Razaleigh said that there was nothing to stop Abdullah from staying on a PM, noting that he had received the mandate in March to stay on for five years more. "He commands the confidence of the majority of the MPs. And the Prime Minister is appointed by the King and not the Umno General Assembly,'' said the Kelantan prince and former Finance Minister.

As tempting as this idea is, it may not move Abdullah. The reason: he needs to be embraced and loved by his party. He never wants to be viewed as a usurper of the party's collective will. He did not contest the party elections and therefore will no longer have its mandate to rule. He may have the mandate from Malaysians but not the mandate from his party. That distinction is all important to him.

In a recent interview with The Sun, he was asked why he did not use the 90 per cent approval rating in 2004 to push through reforms. He said that having the support of Malaysians was one thing but precious to him was the endorsement of his party.

In the eyes of many party men including Abdullah, Najib, who was elected party president by the Umno divisions, has the mandate to lead the party and the country.

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