Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Malaysia Ruling Party Official Quits

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) — The secretary-general of Malaysia's ruling party quit his post Wednesday in the wake of the biggest election setback for the government in 51 years.

Mohammed Radzi Sheikh Ahmad, the top administrator of the United Malays National Organization party, announced his resignation a day after Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi dropped him from the new Cabinet.

Mohammed Radzi was home minister in the previous administration.

"I feel that I cannot work effectively anymore," Mohammed Radzi told reporters. He said he is also resigning his position as secretary-general of the 14-party National Front coalition, which is dominated by UMNO.

"I have done (my job) to the best of my abilities. My resignation is normal process of rejuvenation of the party ... so that the party becomes better and stronger, " he said.

He said he will remain in the party and continue to be a member of Parliament.

Mohammed Radzi is the first top level official in the either the National Front or UMNO to quit after the March 8 general elections. It was not clear if the move signaled cracks in the ruling party's unity, or whether he was forced out of the job by Abdullah.

Mohammed Radzi made the shock announcement about 30 minutes before the new 69-member Cabinet was sworn in Wednesday at the royal palace in the presence of the constitutional monarch King Mizan Zainal Abidin.

The new Cabinet has 16 new ministers in a major revamp of the government.

Abdullah dumped several old-guard politicians after the National Front, which has been in power since 1957, lost its traditional two-thirds majority in Parliament in the March 8 elections. It won 140 seats in the 222-member house.

Analysts blamed the election losses on Abdullah's failure to fulfill promises he made in 2003 after taking office to end corruption and ensure racial equality.

Some of his old ministers were even accused of fanning racial tensions between the majority Malays and the minority ethnic Chinese and Indians.

- AP