Posted by SM Maulana
KUALA LUMPUR, June 17 — Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad today attempted to unhinge the Abdullah Ahmad Badawi-Najib Tun Razak tag team, predicting that the prime minister will not hand over power to his deputy as promised.
Instead, he said that after winning the Umno presidency uncontested in December, Abdullah will claim that he has the support of the party and will lead Umno and Barisan Nasional to ruin in the next general elections in 2013.
Dr Mahathir said: “He will try and pacify Umno with the promise of working hard to rebuild Umno and BN and then handing over power to Datuk Seri Najib.
“When will we see the fruits of this effort to revive Umno? We will find out at the 13th general elections. I believe that this time Umno and BN will be destroyed. Datuk Seri Abdullah will not be the prime minister and will not be able to hand over the prime ministership to Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak.”
His comments come in the wake of a statement by Najib indicating that he will not challenge Abdullah for the top post in the party because he did not want to inherit a weak party. Responding, Abdullah said that he had reached an agreement on succession with his deputy. He did not state the specific date for the transfer of power.
Najib’s statement has infuriated Dr Mahathir, who has been hoping that the deputy prime minister will force Abdullah out of office before the party elections in December. Dr Mahathir painted the deputy prime minister as a meek and easily satisfied leader, who preferred to receive the party presidency on a silver platter rather than through contest. “Knowing Datuk Seri Najib’s easily satisfied nature, Datuk Seri Abdullah promised to hand over power to him on an unspecified date. By doing that, he has extinguished the possibility of a challenge by Najib,” he said in his blog.
Dr Mahathir said that this was a calculated move by Abdullah to head off a move by supporters to the DPM to get as many divisions as possible to nominate Najib for the party president’s position.
Umno branches will begin their meetings in mid-July, followed by divisions meetings. Officials at the party’s divisions will nominate candidates for the senior positions in Umno.
Political analysts said that Dr Mahathir’s comments are aimed at tapping the restlessness among Najib’s supporters over the failure of Abdullah to name a specific hand over date. Some of them want the succession plan to take effect at the Umno general assembly in 2009. This would give Najib sufficient time to stamp his mark on the party and Barisan Nasional before the next general elections.
The view among Abdullah’s supporters is that he should hold firm and not announce the specific date of handover too soon. Party officials would gravitate towards his deputy and he would become a lame duck president once the clock starts ticking, they argued.