Aug 27, 2008

PM Abdullah faces calls to quit after Anwar victory

The Barisan Nasional ruling coalition has admitted defeat in a by-election against opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim who will return to parliament after a decade-long absence. Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi faced calls to quit from within his ruling party Wednesday after opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim scored a landslide by-election victory.

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi faced calls to quit from within his ruling party Wednesday after opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim scored a landslide by-election victory.

Anwar won the vote to return to parliament despite an intense campaign mounted by the Barisan Nasional coalition, which he has promised to unseat within a month with the help of defecting lawmakers.

The failure to check Anwar has heaped more pressure on Abdullah, who has fought to hold on to his job since March general elections in which the opposition gained unprecedented ground.

Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah, a senior member of the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) which leads the ruling coalition, called for a new leadership "to unite our people... and forge a clear national direction."

"(Abdullah) does not have the minimal credibility needed to run the country day by day, let alone to take it in the new directions we need to go in a complex world," he said. "This dangerous situation cannot continue."

Razaleigh said the coalition's by-election campaign, which was criticised for its racial overtones and focus on sodomy allegations against Anwar, has "embarrassed and divided the nation with its ugliness."

"It is time to face the music: it is we who have been buried," he said.

Razaleigh plans to challenge Abdullah for the party leadership in December polls, but is likely to fail after the premier silenced calls for his immediate ouster by agreeing to hand over power to his deputy Najib Razak in 2010.

Abdullah's main critic, former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad, has also called for the resignation of his successor after relations between the two soured in 2006.

Mahathir's son Mukhriz, another senior UMNO figure who is vying for the top spot in the party's influential youth wing, also called for Abdullah's immediate resignation.

"I think Abdullah should strongly consider for all our sakes, to step down now," he told AFP.

"This is a second time that the Malaysian people have given a clear message, with the first at the general elections. It is a rejection of the present leader and he must leave now."

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