Friday, September 26, 2008

Malaysia PM may quit in June 2009

KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) - Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi may quit in June 2009, earlier than the 2010 date planned, according to a proposal to be discussed at an emergency meeting of his UMNO party on Friday.

Abdullah had asked the supreme council of the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) to move back leadership elections to next year from December to avoid a contested vote in which he may have been forced out, a senior party source told Reuters.

"The idea to push back (the party annual meeting) was the prime minister's idea... The 2009 plan and the move to delay the (UMNO) annual general meeting may not go down well with the party grassroots," said the source who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Abdullah had already announced he would stand down in 2010, handing power to his deputy, Najib Razak.

Najib told a news conference earlier on Thursday that UMNO's top body would hold an emergency session at 10 a.m. (3 a.m. British time) on Friday, but declined to comment on what would be discussed.

Abdullah has been under pressure since March when the Barisan Nasional coalition in which UMNO is the dominant party stumbled to its worst ever election result. The opposition won more than a third of seats in parliament.

Malaysia has been ruled by an UMNO-led government for its 51 years of independence and the prospect that it could lose power to the opposition has unsettled investors.

The opposition is led by Anwar Ibrahim, a former deputy prime minister who was pushed out of government, charged with sodomy and corruption in the late 1990s. He was imprisoned and only returned to public life in March after serving a ban as well.

Anwar has galvanised the three-party coalition he now leads and has said he can win a parliamentary majority with the aid of defectors from Barisan Nasional.

(Reporting by Jalil Hamid; Writing by David Chance; editing by Sanjeev Miglani)

source: Malaysia PM may quit in June 2009 Swissinfo