Friday, September 19, 2008

Najib has no choice but to vie for No. 1 job

By Ahirudin Attan

YESTERDAY, opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim demanded a parliamentary sitting next Tuesday, to debate a motion of no-confidence in the government.

Perhaps he is finally ready to produce the defecting MPs that would give him a parliamentary majority and the keys to power.

But his credibility, after long promising to take charge by this week, has been weakened.

Instead, many observers are now starting to think that the man to succeed Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi might just be the man the opposition leader has been trying to discredit since last year: Deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak.

A deal struck between Datuk Seri Abdullah and his deputy, in which Datuk Seri Najib would be made the PM when Mr Abdullah quits in mid-2010, had suggested Mr Najib was content to wait.

Last week, however, he publicly said he would leave it to the delegates of his Umno party, at its December general assembly, to decide on the power transition. Umno dominates Malaysia's ruling coalition and the party president automatically becomes the prime minister.

Mr Najib's statement, therefore, was seen as a sign that he is willing and ready to take the No. 1 post.

His statement came on the heels of Umno vice-president Muhyiddin Yassin's remark that 2010 was too long to wait for the PM to pass the baton.

And just days before Mr Muhyiddin's comment, there was a meeting involving him, Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah, ex-premier Mahathir Mohamad and other party veterans, which discussed the formation of a "Dream Team" to challenge Mr Abdullah in December.

After Mr Najib's remarks, Mr Abdullah quickly met him, and it was reported that the two leaders reached an understanding, with Mr Abdullah even conceding that the power transition could happen sooner.

Mr Abdullah has handed his Finance portfolio to Mr Najib, seen as a move to convince the Umno grassroots that steps are being taken to prepare Mr Najib for the premiership.

Is that enough to buy Mr Abdullah more time at the helm?

Unlikely. At the rate things are going in Umno, Mr Najib will have very little choice but to take on Mr Abdullah at the convention – or persuade him to quit a lot sooner than 2010.

Mr Muhyiddin, who has been identified as Tengku Razaleigh's running mate in the so-called "Dream Team", has told people that he won't turn back.

my paper learnt that Mr Muhyiddin had informed Mr Najib in person that he would be contesting the No. 2 spot come December, which means it would be a Najib vs Muhyiddin contest.

It is a contest that Mr Najib is not assured of winning, given Mr Muhyiddin?s support in Johor,
Negri Sembilan, Kelantan, and several northern states.

His only way out, then, would be to climb the ladder and take on Mr Abdullah.

source: Najib has no choice but to vie for No. 1 job AsiaOne