In Malaysia: Another blow for Abdullah

Posted by SM Maulana

Mr Abdullah, in reaction to Mr Yong’s move, told Bernama news agency: ‘I have not been able to satisfy his personal greed.’

By Carolyn Hong, The Straits Times

MALAYSIAN Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi faces his biggest crisis yet, after a small member party of the Barisan Nasional (BN) yesterday said it had lost confidence in his leadership.

The Chinese-based Sabah Progressive Party (SAPP) says it will table a no-confidence vote against him in Parliament, or support one tabled by the opposition.

‘We have lost confidence in the Prime Minister of Malaysia, Abdullah Ahmad Badawi,’ its president, Datuk Yong Teck Lee, told reporters.

The crack is the biggest to appear in the ruling coalition since its dominant parties suffered serious losses in the March8 polls.

The coalition has since been buffeted by demands from East Malaysia, which delivered one-third of the seats to keep it in power.

The bombshell adds to the perception that Datuk Seri Abdullah’s leadership is weak and the central government unstable. Malaysia’s stock market and the ringgit weakened on the Sabah news.

Mr Abdullah, in reaction to Mr Yong’s move, told Bernama news agency: ‘I have not been able to satisfy his personal greed.’

His aides said he would elaborate later.

Mr Yong said the SAPP, with two MPs and four state assemblymen, will decide by tomorrow whether to leave the BN.

By then, it might well be sacked from the coalition. If it leaves, the BN will be left with 138 MPs. The opposition would then need to woo only 28 of them to seize power.

The SAPP – which is demanding major concessions from the federal government, such as action against illegal immigrants and more economic assistance for Sabahans – has not ruled out joining the coalition led by Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim.

There is strong speculation that a number of Sabah MPs and assemblymen will quit BN, and join the SAPP to form an independent group.

Parliament will convene on Monday.

It will be the first time a no-confidence motion is being attempted against a prime minister by his own party. But it is uncertain if the motion will reach a vote.

The parliamentary rules have no specific provisions for such a vote. A general motion requires 14 days’ notice, and rarely gets heard because government business takes precedence. An urgent motion requires 48 hours’ notice, but there is no vote on it.

Cabinet Minister-in-charge of Parliamentary Affairs Nazri Aziz said it was up to the Speaker to accept or reject the motion.

If tabled, it would be near impossible to carry, even if it won the votes of all 82 opposition and independent MPs.

Another 30 BN MPs would have to vote for it, or at least 60 of them would have to be absent or abstain during voting.

One of Mr Abdullah’s strongest critics within Umno, Datuk Mukhriz Mahathir, said he would not support such a vote if it helped the opposition take power, but would consider it if the choice of a new premier were left to the BN.

Kelantan prince Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah, who is challenging Mr Abdullah for the Umno presidency, said: ‘Our component parties are rethinking their relationship with us. If our leaders refuse to face reality, I fear the worst for the party and this government.’

A successful no-confidence vote would result in snap polls which must be consented to by the King, or the appointment of a new Prime Minister.

Mr Anwar congratulated the SAPP on its resolve, and urged other BN component parties to follow suit.

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