Mar 9, 2008

Malaysian PM's future bleak after poll shock

It is time to resign?.

KUALA LUMPUR : Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi's future looks bleak after a stunning setback in weekend polls that reversed his landslide victory of four years ago, analysts said Sunday.

A visibly exhausted Abdullah conceded there was a question mark over his performance after general elections that saw his ruling coalition lose its parliamentary majority for the first time in four decades.

Asked if the results were a vote of no confidence in his leadership, which has been criticised as weak and ineffective, Abdullah responded: "Maybe. There are a lot of messages from the people."

"There is no pressure at this time," he said when asked if he faced calls for his resignation.

Abdullah won 91 percent of parliamentary seats in 2004 after taking over from veteran premier Mahathir Mohamad, but analysts said he was being punished this time for high inflation, rising crime rates and mounting ethnic tensions.

He has also faced flak for failing to act on his election promises to eradicate corruption which is a serious problem in Malaysia.

Former deputy premier Anwar Ibrahim who has emerged as the opposition figurehead said the results defeated the "myth" that Abdullah's United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) party was invincible.

"I can see some leadership turmoil happening in UMNO. They will have to reinvent by focusing on leadership change," he said.

Ibrahim Suffian from the Merdeka Centre research firm said the results put Abdullah's future in jeopardy as the head of UMNO.

"I think he will have a tough time ahead as he goes into UMNO party elections this year. There will be some tough questions asked there," he said.

Under UMNO's leadership structure, deputy premier Najib Razak is heir apparent to Abdullah and widely anticipated to become Malaysia's next prime minister.

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