Sep 16, 2008

PM Abdullah rejects opposition claim on power

Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi scoffed at the opposition caolition’s claims that it has the numbers to topple the Barisan Nasional government.

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi on Tuesday rejected the opposition's claim it has enough support to seize power, and said he was not under pressure to resign.

Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim said late Monday he would form a new administration with defecting government lawmakers, and sought a meeting with Abdullah to show him the list of names and discuss a handover.

"This is a waste of our time. It is a game of political lies by Anwar Ibrahim and the people are choosing to believe him," Abdullah told a press conference.

"He has no substance but the people will continue to be fascinated by him."

Abdullah, who has faced repeated calls to quit since elections in March which saw the opposition dramatically increase its seats in parliament, said he did not feel compelled to quit.

"Why should I be pressured? It is mere dreams. If at all it is true, (Anwar) would have announced it by now. The whole world would have known," he said.

"Do you think he would ask for a meeting with me to discuss a transition? He would storm into my room with hundreds behind him, shouting victory. This is Anwar's style."

After the elections, Anwar set a date of September 16 to persuade at least 30 government lawmakers to switch sides and allow him to form a new administration.

Tian Chua, information chief of Anwar's Keadilan party, said the three-member opposition alliance had secured a simple majority in parliament and that more government lawmakers would defect later.

But he said there were concerns that the coalition - which has ruled since independence from Britain 51 years ago - would stoke conflict in order to justify a crackdown to keep itself in power.

Abdullah did not rule out a meeting with Anwar, who wants an assurance that the government will not deploy the police and military onto the streets in order to retain power.

"We will see if there is anything concrete to discuss at a suitable time," Abdullah said, but insisted he was getting on with the business of governing.

"Our government is in power, we will continue to do our work," he said holding a meeting with top civil servants.

He also dismissed suggestions that he faces a revolt from within his cabinet, after six ministers spoke out against the arrests last week of an opposition politician, a blogger and a reporter under internal security laws.

"They were giving their views and this is because I allow ministers to express their views," he said. "This will not compromise the government's position."

Abdullah refused to discuss his plan to transfer power to his deputy Najib Razak in mid-2010, which both Najib and influential trade minister Muhyiddin Yassin have now questioned.

The opposition has said that Najib and Muhyiddin may be preparing to challenge Abdullah and install themselves as the new premier and deputy.

Abdullah acknowledged that his ruling party, the United Malays National Organisation which has been in disarray since the elections debacle, was "facing a lot of troubles."

"Whatever weakness there is in our party, we will rectify the best we can," he said. "Believe me, we will improve and everything will be alright."

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