Monday, October 20, 2008

Najib moves closer to premiership

Malaysia's deputy prime minister has secured enough endorsements to run for election as the ruling party's next president, according to an official count Monday, moving him closer to succeeding the country's unpopular leader.

Sixty-four branches of the United Malays National Organization party have nominated Deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak to become the party's next president, surpassing the minimum 58 endorsements required for a candidate.

Najib is widely expected to win the post unopposed in the party's elections for top office-bearers in March because his sole challenger — Razaleigh Hamzah, a veteran lawmaker — has received no nominations so far.

"Najib will win, definitely," said Mohammad Agus Yusoff, a political science lecturer at the National University of Malaysia.

Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi announced earlier this month that he would not defend his presidency of the party amid intense demands for his resignation. Support for Abdullah has slumped since he led the governing coalition to disastrous losses in March general elections.

Abdullah says he will hand power to Najib if he becomes the ruling party president in March.

The government's popularity has plummeted amid racial disputes, a weak economy and corruption claims. It returned to power with only a simple parliamentary majority in March and has since been rattled by opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim's threats to seize power through defections.

source: Malaysia No. 2 leader moves closer to premiership
The Associated Press