Tuesday, September 23, 2008


KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 22 - Barring a last-minute turnaround, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi will go ahead and defend his position as Umno party president, despite some pressure from the ground for him to short-circuit his transition plan.

Sources told The Malaysian Insider that the Prime Minister reached this decision after meeting several Umno supreme council members, state liaison chiefs and political operatives over the weekend at his official residence Sri Perdana.

The consensus among this group, which includes Umno secretary-general Tengku Adnan Mansor, is that Abdullah should be able to garner the minimum 58 nominations needed to contest the top post. Abdullah's supporters said that with the green light from him, they will hit the ground and conduct a no-holds-barred campaign for the next few weeks to ensure that he gets the nominations when Umno divisions begin their divisional meetings.

This decision by Abdullah to defend his party president's position will come as a surprise to many, especially those in Datuk Seri Najib Razak's camp. During the supreme council meeting on Thursday, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, Datuk Hishammuddin Hussein, Datuk Rafidah Aziz and Datuk Shafie Apdal urged Abdullah to hand over the reins to Najib soon, with Rafidah saying that the PM will face difficulty getting the minimum number of nominations.

Hearing this feedback, many party officials and political pundits expected him to announce that he would not contest the party elections.

But instead of demoralising Abdullah and his supporters, the attack by Hishammuddin and others had the opposite effect. Abdullah's camp felt that despite being magnanimous by handing over the Finance portfolio and even suggesting during a press conference that he would hand over power to Najib much earlier than 2010, he was being pushed to the wall.

A senior party official told The Malaysian Insider: "You can push someone up to a point only. After that it becomes humiliating. So it is rubbish to say that Pak Lah will be humiliated if he contests the party elections. Some people are already trying to do this. He has nothing to lose by keeping to the original transition plan.''


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