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Planned power transition “extra constitutional”

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September 28, 2008

Malaysia Power Struggle:
Planned power transition “extra constitutional”

Malaysia’s former finance minister Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah said on Saturday he would contest the leadership of Malaysia's ruling party, criticising a planned transition of power as "extra constitutional", reported Reuters.

The United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), the biggest party in the coalition that has ruled Malaysia for 51 years, agreed on Friday to delay to March from December a leadership vote that could have seen Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi defeated.

The move is likely to accelerate Abdullah's departure from office, although he declined to say whether he would quit on that date or run in the party poll.

The premier had already said he would quit before the next election, which must be held by 2013, saying he would cede power to his deputy Najib Razak in 2010.

"I reject the transfer of power and transition plan, simply because it is extra constitutional," Tengku Razaleigh told a news conference.

He said he was hoping to contest the election for UMNO presidency by getting the required nominations. "I am going out determined to get the nominations required," he said.

Under UMNO rules, a member must garner 30 percent of total nominations to be eligible to run for the party presidency.

Analysts say Abdullah's failure to set a date leaves a lame duck in charge at a time when his coalition is in disarray and the opposition is claiming power. At the same time, Malaysia's economic growth is slowing and inflation is at a 27-year high.

"The country is facing massive economic problems. The economy is messy, there is capital flight, no new investments and rising unemployment," said Tengku Razaleigh.

"We should look into these problems, and settle the leadership problem once and for all in accordance with the constitution," he said.

UMNO and the Barisan Nasional coalition it heads are for the first time facing the prospect of losing power to a re-energised opposition alliance led by former deputy premier Anwar Ibrahim.

Abdullah has come under increasing pressure to quit since Barisan stumbled to its worst election result in March this year when it lost its two-thirds parliamentary majority.

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