Aug 24, 2006

Reuters news : Tun Mahathir plans showdown with Pak Lah

This is what a showdown is?

Extracted from Reuters
Mahathir plans showdown with Malaysia PM

KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) - Malaysian ex-premier Mahathir Mohamad wants to attend a crucial meeting of the country's ruling party in November, setting the stage for a showdown with his successor turned rival.

In recent months Mahathir, 81, has launched a series of bitter attacks on the government of his handpicked successor Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, over a range of issues, including a decision to scrap plans for a bridge to neighbouring Singapore.

Mahathir, Malaysia's longest-serving leader who retired in late 2003 after 22 years in office, still wields considerable influence within the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) headed by Abdullah.

"I am thankful that my name has been proposed as a delegate," Mahathir told a gathering in his northern home state of Kedah late on Wednesday. "I give you my assurance I won't pull out." UMNO, with about 3.3 million members, is the backbone of the ruling National Front coalition that has governed Malaysia since independence in 1957.

Under UMNO's system, only 2,292 delegates can attend the party assembly, and even fewer are allowed to address it.

"I probably can't say anything," Mahathir told reporters, when asked if he wanted to address the meeting. "If I am allowed to speak I will speak. It is not certain yet."

The lengthy squabble between the two leaders has worried some investors, but political analysts do not consider it threatens the government, with Abdullah seen as holding an overwhelming popular mandate following a landslide election win in 2004.

Last week, in the first government comments to so openly address the political risks, Abdullah's deputy warned that a rift between the top leaders of UMNO could split the organisation and threaten its rule.

"As long as we don't learn from history, we can repeat the mistakes," Deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak said, according to news agency Bernama. "We don't want the dark history to happen again in the party."

Abdullah is not due to call for general elections until 2008, but there is mounting speculation he might call for snap polls in 2007, at the earliest. These will be followed by UMNO party elections.

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