Sep 26, 2008

New plan a bad deal for Pak Lah

KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 26 - If the Umno Supreme Council endorses the new transition deal this morning, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi will announce that he will not seek re-election as president but will continue to head the party for at least eight months more until the elections are held.

Judging by behind the scenes discussion over the past 48 hours, there is every reason to believe that the council elders will fight for the plan, which involves postponing elections from December till May or June next year, and Abdullah handing over the reins to Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak then.

Still, selling the idea of postponing the party polls to the rank and file is not going to be a walk in the park for council members. Many branch and division leaders have expanded a lot of resources and funds on galvanizing their supporters. Having to go through the same expensive process in a few months' time is not going to be an attractive option for them.

In a perverse way, Abdullah’s supporters in the government and Umno are hoping that this new transition plan is jettisoned by the supreme council. They believe that the Najib-inspired idea of postponing the party elections will make the Prime Minister more unpopular on the ground and create the impression that he is willing to stay on even when he does not have the backing of the grassroots.

They also argue that there will be a cloud over his legitimacy to rule and this will be a historical footnote on his years in office. Abdullah’s supporters want him to either seek a new mandate from party members or consider handing over the reins before the party elections in December.

“This plan of postponing the elections is an acknowledgment that Najib cannot control the ground. Pak Lah’s first instinct was to think that the idea was not palatable, but it has been presented to him as the best approach to keep the party together, ‘’ said a senior government official.

Officials in the PM’s camp say that Najib had impressed on him during recent discussions that the new transition plan would allow both of them to focus on tackling problems inside and outside the party. These include Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin and Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

The deal on the new transition plan was sealed this week when both of them agreed that, come what may, they would not go up against each other.

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