Malaysian PM to hand over power to deputy


Malaysia’s prime minister has accepted responsibility for his ruling coalition’s poor election results and will plan how to hand over power to his deputy after December, an official and news reports said on Saturday.


Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi assured party officials at a private meeting late Friday that he would discuss a succession plan with his deputy, Najib Razak, a party official said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to make public statements.


Speaking to reporters after the talks in southern Johor state, Abdullah acknowledged that some officials in the ruling United Malays National Organization party had called for him to resign after last month’s general elections.


“There have been demands,” Abdullah was quoted as saying by the national news agency, Bernama. “I feel I am the reason for the spoiled votes for the (ruling coalition) and I feel responsible to do what’s best to rehabilitate” the government.


Consumer Affairs Minister Shahrir Samad said details of how and when Abdullah will hand over power would be determined after the United Malays National Organisation holds its annual congress in December.


“Abdullah will sort the matter out with Najib after the UMNO general assembly,” Shahrir told Bernama. “We will work together till the general assembly.”


International Trade Minister Muhyiddin indicated that no deadline has been set for Abdullah to step down, saying “the period of transition and so on were not mentioned in detail” during Friday’s talks, Bernama reported.


Abdullah, 68, began hinting at a power transition last week when he identified Najib as his probable successor. Abdullah took office in October 2003 after being hand-picked by former leader Mahathir Mohamad, who has spearheaded a campaign to oust Abdullah in recent weeks.


The prime minister has faced the brunt of the blame for crippling setbacks suffered by the National Front ruling coalition in the March 8 general elections. The coalition, led by Abdullah’s party, lost its two-thirds majority in Parliament as well as control of five state legislatures.


Abdullah said after Friday’s meeting that he wanted to remain in power for a while longer to try to resolve public grievances about issues such as corruption, crime and racial disputes.


“It is not that I want to carry on helming the party for a long time,” Bernama quoted the prime minister as saying. “I have to discharge my duties and I feel duty-bound to ensure that all problems are resolved. That is the priority.” (AP)