September 12, 2008
PM Abdullah refuses to quit; opposition chases govt MPs
Malaysia's opposition is to chase after 49 government MPs who have been sent on a trip to Taiwan, hoping to convince them to switch sides as Anwar Ibrahim's self-imposed September 16 deadline to win power nears, Reuters reported.
Anwar's coalition decided to try to meet the MPs after Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi again rejected calls from within his governing party to quit.
With Anwar needing at least 30 government legislators to join 82 MPs from his three-party coalition to ensure a majority in the 222-strong parliament, the government sent MPs overseas in a move Anwar said was aimed at thwarting him.
The 61-year-old former deputy prime minister is racing against time to form a new government as he faces what he says are trumped-up charges of sodomy, the second time he has done so after being jailed in the late 1990s.
"We will be going tomorrow," Tian Chua, a spokesman for Anwar's People's Justice Party, told Reuters by telephone.
Chua said his party remained confident of winning over enough defactors by September 16 to topple a government which has ruled Malaysia for 51 years since independence from Britain.
"We will be meeting up with people (in Taiwan). We will tell in due time if we are successful in getting all the names and numbers," he added.
He said some government MPs had already signed a document to support Anwar but declined to specify how many.
"In principle we have the numbers, but now we need to sort out the technical things," said Chua.
Earlier on Thursday, Abdullah rejected a call by his trade minister to step down before 2010, saying that he had agreed with his cabinet to hand power to his deputy Najib Razak in June of
"I'm surprised that a member of my cabinet should come up with that kind of statement," Bernama news agency quoted him as saying.
"It is against what has been agreed to. I am not staying on for the pleasure of staying on."
Trade minister Muhyiddin Yassin said on Wednesday that Abdullah should consider handing over earlier to give the ruling coalition time to prepare for the next elections.
Muhyiddin, 63, is the most senior official from Abdullah's United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), main party in the 14-strong Barisan Nasional ruling coalition, to have called for the prime
minister to resign.
Abdullah's performance, which saw the government sink to its worst election performance in March when it lost its two-thirds parliamentary majority for the first time, has come under fire
from inside and outside the party.
His government has struggled to connect with voters at a time of rising prices and slowing economic growth. Inflation in July was near a 27-year high.
The rising political tensions have unnerved investors. The cost of insuring Malaysia's debt has risen sharply to around $134,378 per $10 million of debt from $90,185 prior to the March election,
based on prices for 5-year credit default swaps, a barometer of risk.
Meanwhile, Malaysia's armed forces chief has voiced concerns about rising racial tensions in the country, Singapore’s Channel News Asia reported.
General Abdul Aziz Zainal urged the government on Thursday to take stern action to stem the tide, but maintained that the military will not interfere in the country's political affairs.
But General Abdul Aziz gave the assurance that the military will steer clear of the country's political affairs.