KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia's government sought to allay fears Thursday (25 Sept) that growing demands for the prime minister's resignation could spark rifts in the ruling party and enable its opposition foes to seize power.
Speculation about political strife increased after Deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak canceled a trip to the U.N. General Assembly meeting in New York just hours before his scheduled departure Wednesday (24 Sept).
Najib said government duties kept him from leaving, but independent news portals reported that Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and Najib were discussing when Abdullah should hand power to his deputy.
Abdullah has said he will defend his position as chief of the ruling United Malays National Malay Organization in December elections and that he wants to remain in office until mid-2010 _ though he has said he could retire earlier. Every prime minister since independence in 1957 has been the UMNO leader.
International Trade Minister Muhyiddin Yassin said he hoped "something very positive" would soon come from talks between Abdullah and Najib.
"There is no power struggle," Muhyiddin told reporters. "We would leave it to the two leaders to work out what would be the best arrangements, not only for themselves but more importantly for the country."
Some party officials have reportedly suggested a compromise by delaying the party elections until mid-2009 when Najib could take over.
Ruling party representatives in 191 districts are next month expected to nominate their preferred leaders to stand in the December elections. Abdullah's supporters fear other prominent party members, including Najib, could present a serious challenge to his leadership.
Abdullah's support has slumped since he led the National Front governing coalition to its worst electoral results ever in March national polls, when opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim's alliance captured one-third of Parliament and took control of five of Malaysia's 13 states. A general election is not due until 2013.
Anwar's People's Alliance now has 82 seats in the 222-member Parliament compared to the National Front's 138. Anwar claims he has pledges of loyalty from enough government lawmakers to topple the coalition that has led Malaysia for more than 50 years. (By JULIA ZAPPEI/ AP)
source: Leader's Power Transfer Plan In Jeopardy
Sin Chew Jit Poh, Malaysia