Abdullah Will Contest Malaysia Party Leadership, Pledges Reform

Posted by SM Maulana
Monday, 16 June 2008

By Douglas Wong

June 15 (Bloomberg) — Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said he’ll stand again for his party’s leadership in December, pledging reforms following the ruling coalition’s worst election performance in five decades.

“There’s so much more to be done,” Abdullah told reporters attending the World Economic Forum on East Asia in Kuala Lumpur today. “We must continue to do what I promised to do. I can’t say forget it, you’re not supporting me.”

The premier said he hasn’t decided when to hand over to Deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak, denying media reports on June 13 that said he’d privately agreed on a date to step down.

Abdullah has resisted calls to quit from his own party members following the March 8 elections, instead proposing a new commission to fight corruption, and lifting price restrictions on domestic steel and cement companies. His refusal to set a handover date means Malaysians aren’t any clearer on how much of his five-year term he plans to serve.

Abdullah said in April he’d start discussions to hand over to Najib after the United Malays National Organisation, the largest party in the coalition, holds leadership elections. He said at the time he had a succession plan in place, and wanted a “smooth” transfer of power.

Abdullah said today he regretted not rolling out new policies before the March elections, when voters punished his coalition for not doing enough to reduce graft.

“If you look at the result of the election, of course I wish I’d done it earlier,” Abdullah said. “I suffered for that.”

Projects Reviewed

An opposition alliance led by former deputy premier Anwar Ibrahim won enough seats to deny Abdullah’s coalition the two- thirds majority it had held in parliament for 34 years. The opposition also won an unprecedented five of 13 states. Anwar’s group comprises the People’s Justice Party, the Democratic Action Party, and the Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party.

The prime minister reiterated today that the government will review some stated-funded development projects to cut expenditure, focusing instead on increasing food production.

“Food is more important than anything else,” Abdullah said.

Abdullah also promised to allow more demonstrations against rising fuel prices. The government raised gasoline prices 41 percent this month and more than 2,000 protesters rallied on the streets of Kuala Lumpur on June 13.

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