ASEAN KEY DESTINATIONS
Malaysia Power Struggle:
PM Abdullah expected to clarify handover plan Wednesday
Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said Monday he would meet with leaders of the ruling National Front coalition Wednesday to discuss his plan to eventually hand power to his deputy, reported Kyodo news.
He is also likely to say by then if he will defend his presidency of the coalition-leading United Malays National Organisation.
"I am hoping to have that meeting. Our colleagues in the National Front have already indicated they would like to be briefed on what we are doing and what the plans are going to be," Abdullah told reporters.
"I will decide whether (or not) tomorrow or Wednesday," he said.
Being the largest party in the 13-party National Front, UMNO's election is a keenly watched affair as traditionally whoever holds the top UMNO post also becomes prime minister.
Abdullah said two weeks ago he would make his plans known before UMNO's 191 divisions begin meetings this Thursday to start the process of nominating candidates for the party election in March.
Abdullah, who took over the premiership Nov. 1, 2003, has been under pressure to step aside after the coalition suffered its worst electoral results in decades in the general election in March this year.
His hope to serve at least until the middle of his second term, mid-2010, has apparently been thwarted by angry UMNO members who want him to hand over to his deputy, Najib Abdul Razak, as soon as possible.
UMNO has also been under siege from a resurgent opposition led by former UMNO leader Anwar Ibrahim.
Many in UMNO do not believe the mild-mannered Abdullah has the tenacity to take on an ambitious Anwar, who is bent on replacing the coalition government through defections of ruling lawmakers.