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Anwar sets new deadline after PM promises handover

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October 11, 2008

Malaysia Power struggle:
Anwar sets new deadline after PM promises handover

Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim has said that the country's beleaguered Barisan Nasional government could fall by December, Reuters quoted a local newspaper as reporting Saturday.

Anwar has insisted he had won over enough defectors from the government to form a new administration. But an earlier self-imposed deadline of September 16 passed and his calls to recall parliament for a confidence vote were denied.

The former deputy premier's move to set a new deadline by the Eid al-Adha festival, which falls on December 8, comes after Prime Minister Ahmad Abdullah Badawi announced this week he will not stand in a party election next year, effectively handing over to his deputy Najib Razak.

"We have built our base to go forward, if it (taking power) does not happen this week or next week, it can possibly happen before Eid al-Adha festival," Anwar said late on Friday in comments reported by the mass-selling Berita Harian newspaper

"On the way it will be done, I can't say. We will choose the peaceful way," Anwar, who was touring the northeastern state of Kelantan, said.

Eid al-Adha is Islam's most important feast at the end of the annual Haj pilgrimage. In mainly-Muslim Malaysia, the holiday coincides with the last few days parliament will be in session for the year.

Anwar has to get 30 government MPs to walk over in order to have a majority in the 222-seat parliament. At present the opposition coalition, made of Anwar's Keadilan party, the Parti Islam Se-Malaysia and the Democratic Action party, has 82 seats.

"A momentum for a no-confidence vote could build up when parliament starts next week and this may happen during the debating of the budget or any bill for that matter," said Ginie Lim, spokesperson for Keadilan party.

One of Malaysia's best-known political figures, Anwar made world headlines when he was dismissed in the late 1990s by then premier Mahathir Mohamad and later imprisoned on what he says were trumped up sodomy and corruption charges.

He was in court again this week on new sodomy charges which he says is another ploy to stymie his challenge against the government that has ruled the Southeast Asian nation for more than 50 years.

In a related report from Singapore’s Channel News Asia, Deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak has officially announced his candidacy for UMNO presidency and at least five UMNO leaders are offering to be his Number Two.

Officially throwing his hat in the ring on Friday is International Trade and Industry Minister Muhyiddin Yassin, who is the hot favourite.

The 61-year-old - who is counting on the support of UMNO divisions in the southern and central states of Johore, Pahang and Selangor - will be the deputy premier if he wins the race.

Analysts have predicted that a Najib-Muhyiddin team will see the return of former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad, who quit the party last June.

"Let's take one step at a time. If they think they can contribute in terms of nation building and national unity, bring back the people into the folds of UMNO. They will definitely be most welcomed," said Muhyiddin. But other party leaders disagree with that view.

Khairy Jamaluddin, deputy youth chief, UMNO, said: "The last thing this country needs is to return to Mahathirism. That's not what this country needs, that's not what the people want, regardless of what some people say."

Khairy, who is the son-in-law of Abdullah, is vying for the hotly contested post of UMNO youth chief against arch rival Mukhriz Mahathir.

Meanwhile, the imminent departure of the prime minister has raised concerns among some quarters, especially the legal profession and civil rights groups who fear a rollback of his reforms.

With the political uncertainty that has been plaguing the ruling party appearing to be out of the way, Malaysians are hoping that the top leadership can now focus on broader economic issues, particularly on how to keep the contagion effect from the global financial meltdown from spreading to its shore.

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