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PM Abdullah shrugs off opposition’s no-confidence call

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September 19, 2008

Malaysia Power struggle:
PM Abdullah shrugs off opposition’s no-confidence call

Malaysia's Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi on Thursday rejected opposition demands to recall parliament for a confidence vote, prolonging political uncertainty in the country, reported Reuters.

In a separate report, AFP said opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim promised to use the special sitting to prove his claim he has the support of enough government defectors to topple Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi's Barisan Nasional ruling coalition.

"Today, the Pakatan Rakyat (opposition alliance) leaders have submitted a letter to the PM requesting him to call an emergency session of parliament to deliberate a motion of censure against the leadership of Abdullah Ahmad Badawi," he said.

Anwar said he would name the defectors at the session, which he hoped would be held no later than September 23. The next parliament session is only due to begin on October 13.

"Convene an emergency session and you will see in parliament," he said, adding that "it is critical for the prime minister to respond."

"We face a major economic crisis. It is pertinent that they think of the nation and not the interest of themselves."

Anwar needs the support of 30 government lawmakers to take control of the 222-seat parliament.

He stepped up the pressure on Abdullah a day after the small National Front party on Borneo island quit the ruling coalition, and the prime minister indicated he may step down earlier than planned.

Abdullah is facing dissent from his own United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) to quit after the ruling coalition was hammered in the March 8 polls. His popularity on the streets is at an all-time low amid high inflation.

Abdullah has refused to meet Anwar and denied that the 30 MPs the opposition needs to form the next government have deserted the ruling coalition, calling Anwar's claims a "mirage".

Anwar's three-party alliance has 82 MPs in the 222-strong Malaysian parliament and if it wins power, it will displace the coalition that has run this Southeast Asian country of 27 million people for over 50 years since independence from Britain.

Anwar said he may seek a meeting with the king to stake his claim if Abdullah failed to convene the emergency session. "I am not discounting the possibility," he said.

Anwar also said there was no reason for the government to detain him under the tough Internal Security Act (ISA), which allows indefinite detention without trial.

"There is no reason why I should be arrested under the ISA. This is clearly not an option for any responsible leadership. This (Abdullah's government) is now a minority government. The majority of MPs are with the opposition alliance," he said.

Anwar called Monday for a meeting with Abdullah to arrange a smooth transition of power, but the premier refused and demanded he release the names of the defectors.

Abdullah then delivered a warning to Anwar, a former deputy premier who was sacked and jailed a decade ago, accusing him of "lying to the public and confusing the people."

"He has become a threat to the economy and national security," he said. This is a serious allegation in Malaysia, where the government can use internal security laws to detain its opponents without trial.

Last Friday police arrested an opposition MP, a blogger and a journalist under the security law citing security concerns.

Teresa Kok, from the Democratic Action Party (DAP), a member of the opposition alliance, was arrested along with Malaysia's top blogger Raja Petra Kamaruddin.

A journalist for a Chinese-language newspaper was also arrested after reporting on racist comments made by a ruling party member, but was quickly released after an uproar including from within the government.

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