Abdullah buying time with 2010 quit plans

From the Economist Intelligence Unit

JULY 26 – Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi’s July 10 announcement that he plans to step down by mid-2010 seems an attempt by the prime minister to buy time – both for his own (probably doomed) leadership and for his party, Umno.

By sacrificing the second half of his current five-year term, the prime minister may hope not only to save the first half, and thus to stay in the leadership for two more years, but also to reduce internal feuding that is undermining the government’s stability.

Abdullah’s move comes as pressure continues to mount on him to step down to take responsibility for the political crisis as well as for rising inflation. This pressure is coming both from within the highly factional Umno – where some elements regard Abdullah as an increasing liability to the party or see his problems as an opportunity to make their own power bids – and from the parliamentary opposition, which has been emboldened by its gains in the March 2008 general election.

Although the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition, of which Umno is the dominant member, comfortably won the election, the loss of its two-thirds majority for the first time in nearly 40 years was a humiliating setback.

Sensing Abdullah’s weakness, the opposition Pakatan Rakyat (PR) alliance has intensified its efforts to bring down the government, a goal it hopes to achieve by September. At the same time, recriminations within Umno have accentuated divisions within the party, increasing the chances of an internal move to oust Abdullah and, in the process, making the political crisis more acute.

Abdullah’s promise to step down by mid-2010, making way for his deputy, Datuk Seri Najib Razak, is above all an attempt to gain political breathing room. By addressing, if only in part, demands that he take responsibility for the election debacle and for the country’s economic problems, he will hope to reduce the immediate pressure on him to resign.

It is almost certainly too late for him to do more than this, but he has little other option. Unless he can introduce a measure of calm into an ever more frenzied and sensationalised political scene, he risks being forced from office much sooner than 2010. In this context, it appears that the recent talk of Abdullah being provided with the means to make a graceful exit has come true.

Abdullah’s move has a better chance of subduing at least the worst of the harmful intrigue within Umno than it does of stopping the opposition in its tracks. Promising a managed transfer of power within Umno is wholly in line with party tradition, although the hope within Umno will be that Abdullah proves temperamentally more suited than his predecessor, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, to effecting a smooth transition.

History does not invite optimism on this front: Abdullah himself was groomed for the prime minister’s job by Dr Mahathir, but the outspoken former prime minister has clashed repeatedly with Abdullah since the latter took office in 2003 and Dr Mahathir’s constant sniping has been a key factor in the political crisis.

Dr Mahathir also, notably, fell out with a previous deputy whom he had anointed as successor, though Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim did not even make it to prime minister before being ousted on now-notorious corruption and sodomy charges. Anwar has returned to the fray after the expiry of his ban from politics (on the grounds of his corruption conviction), and is heading the opposition’s bid to form a government. His return to politics, on its own, would have raised the political temperature substantially in Malaysia, but the emergence of a new sodomy allegation – from a 23-year-old aide – has created mayhem.

Anwar claims that the new allegation is a conspiracy to discredit him or remove him from the political scene, as he also claimed at the time of his sodomy conviction in 2000. Anwar’s supporters, and many Western observers, believed that that conviction had been trumped up, a theory supported by the fact that it was overturned in 2004.

Although Abdullah’s proposed transfer of power may disappoint Umno factions that might wish him to step down immediately, the reality is that the plan actually suits even his rivals quite well. Ditching Abdullah now would plunge the party into even greater crisis, increasing the risk of the government collapsing.

At the same time, there is no one in the party who is obviously in a position to replace him at the moment. Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah, a former finance minister and a former adversary of Dr Mahathir, is the only openly declared challenger for the party leadership. But memories of Tengku Razaleigh’s divisive 1987 wrangles with Dr Mahathir may limit the breadth of his appeal within Umno.

Meanwhile, Najib, Abdullah’s nominee, is fighting off controversy over his alleged links to a murder that has become the subject of a lurid trial. Although he has denied involvement, Najib cannot realistically take over as prime minister until the dust from this scandal has cleared.

Abdullah’s move will not dull the intensity of the opposition’s campaign to unseat him, however. The PR will continue to apply constant pressure on the government. Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Ismail, the parliamentary opposition leader, recently filed a no-confidence motion against the prime minister and his Cabinet.

Meanwhile her husband, none other than Anwar, continues to try to woo defectors from the BN to the opposition. The opposition needs at least 30 BN lawmakers to cross over in order to form a government.

If this were to happen, then all bets on Abdullah’s future – and indeed on Umno’s – would be off. If not, Abdullah is likely to contest, and win, the Umno leadership election at the party’s annual congress in December. Assuming that he survives as prime minister until mid-2010, the main question over the rest of his term will be what he can achieve in policy terms.

There has been some suggestion that the announcement of his departure plan will turn him into a lame duck. However, his efforts to defuse the immediate political crisis could invigorate the remainder of his term. He will have nothing to lose, and having salvaged enough short-term support from within Umno to head off immediate challenges for the leadership, the question of his personal political future will not hang over every policy issue.

In this scenario, Abdullah could be expected to try to pursue economic reforms more energetically in an effort to establish his legacy. This would be no bad thing. If a grudgingly united Umno could turn its energy away from internal politicking and towards improving the lives of its constituents, it might find a silver lining in its present crisis – and at last begin to address the deficiencies that have led to the calls for Abdullah’s departure.

  1. #1 by ruyom on Sunday, 27 July 2008 - 3:08 pm

    Despite Malaysia pretty economic growth over these past few months, something just doesn’t seem to be right. It is almost as if the GDP growth figures were manipulated or spiced up.

    Well, they weren’t. Contrary to popular belief, the government does not really “jack up” economic figures. It just found clever ways to “spice up” growth figures. That is all.

    Let us use last year as an example. Abdullah found out that the economic figures were not good, and it couldn’t have been at a worse time. Elections were just around the corner and he didn’t want the economy to appear weak.

    So he did something very clever – he increased the wages of civil servants. This of course, leads to higher spending. And as we know, spending helps boost the economy.

    I am not saying that civil servants do not deserve a pay rise. But the reason why they were given one couldn’t be any worse. Yes, Malaysia is actually a failing economy. China and India are fast replacing Malaysia as manufacturing powerhouses. Half of Malaysia GDP figure comes from the manufacturing sector.

    If oil and palm oil prices did not increase last year by a mile, Malaysia would have registered an economic growth of somewhere near 3.5%. This is a measly figure for a developing country.

    By 2014, Malaysia will no longer be a net exporter of oil. In turn, this translates to losses for every sen oil prices go up.

    To achieve developed status by 2020, Malaysia should have registered at least an 8% economic growth annually since 1995 (a developed country should have Purchasing Power Parity of at least RM25000, and GDP per capita should be close to PPP figures).

    Right now, Malaysia has PPP of RM14700 and a GDP per capita of RM6500.

    We have only done an average of 5% increase in GDP growth from 1995- 2007. So Vision 2020 will not be achieved despite what the government might claim. Furthermore, for Malaysia to move up the value chain (I define this as a country that is able to innovate and produce high-quality products, e.g. companies such as LG, Samsung from Korea), large amounts of foreign direct investments (FDI) are needed.

    To show you how low our FDI is, Malaysia has a pathetic RM7 billion of FDI annually while Singapore, a country 100 times smaller than Malaysia, has FDI of RM55 billion annually. Last year, nearly 50% of our FDI went into the Iskandar Development Region.

    This, in my opinion, is a project bound to be a major failure. When Singaporeans were invited to invest, they did. But when they started to invest, our smart politicians said this would chase the malays into the jungles.

    To summarise everything up:

    (1) All the people tax money is being used for stupid subsidies and unnecessary mega-projects.

    (2) Immigrants from Indonesia, Philippines are causing wages to remain stagnant.

    (3) Malaysia economic growth is now based on oil and palm oil prices. (Malaysia will soon be a net importer of oil, and palm oil prices have reached their peak, meaning it will be downhill from here on.)

    (4) Malaysia is suffering from a “brain drain”. No qualified professionals want to work in Malaysia anymore.

    (5) Malaysia manufacturing sector is shrinking, thus unemployment rates will go up.

  2. #2 by Godfather on Sunday, 27 July 2008 - 4:21 pm

    Where have you been ? It’s not vision 2020 anymore. Under the astute leadership of Badawi, it is now vision 2050.

    Wawasan 2020 exists only for milestones relating to theft of public funds – APs will be issued until 2020, and the NEP in its present form will go on at least until 2020.

  3. #3 by pathfinder on Sunday, 27 July 2008 - 5:21 pm

    Ya, but theft is a very mild word. Daylight Robbery should be the right word. Those guys are robbing us right under our noses and there is nothing we can do abt it. The ketuanan melayu thing they are talking about is apparently the UM..NO’s right to rob. According to Wikidedia robbery is defined as “taking the property of another, with the intent to permanently deprive the person of that property, by means of force or fear.” Yes the waving of the keris has create fear, the violence of may 13, the misinterpreting of malay rights accorded in the constitution have force the nation to give 30% of the economy to UM..NO members, Now, we are permannetly deprive of the 30% of the economy. Now, not only are we talking of the economy here, We are also permanently deprive of in the field of education, in scholarships, in university placing etc. The economy belongs to all the rakyat. The education too. Nobody should create fear and force to legally take away our properties to be distributed at their whims and fancies.

    All the visions and wawasan are plans as such. We are being literally and legally robbed.

  4. #4 by kosmoalpha on Sunday, 27 July 2008 - 6:16 pm

    ‘quit plan’ or ‘quick plan’ would be more exact??the rest should be self explanatory as far as sensible malaysian are concerned.

  5. #5 by nyghtsky on Sunday, 27 July 2008 - 7:06 pm

    An bad and guilty employee will throw in his resignation, thus requiring him to serve a month’s notice with his employer rather than be officially terminated. With this action, he not only save ‘ face ‘ but encourages the employer not to pursue disciplinary action.

    Can anyone blame Bodowi for following suit!!!

  6. #6 by Rakyat Teraniaya on Sunday, 27 July 2008 - 7:12 pm

    pak lah you are still sleeping! Under your useless rule we have
    1. Pre election promise of not increasing petrol prices before next year broken.
    2. Gov promise of not increasing before august broken.
    3. Najib robbed Malaysia out of hundreds of millions via “commission” of jet and submarine purchase.
    4. Crazy increase of petrol prices to rm2.70.
    5. Altantuya case not settled, now PI who mentioned najib’s involvement in the case suddenly disappear!
    6. DSAI being charged with sodomy again. Even if you are not bored with such rubbish lies,we are.
    7. State sultans not agreeing with your choice of MBs.
    8. Mention of so many umno divisions for you to step down.
    9. Many international parties who deem your charge of sodomy against DSAI as a farce and politically motivated.
    10. Now even state excos defying your directives.

    If you had dignity in you, resign.

  7. #7 by yhsiew on Sunday, 27 July 2008 - 7:28 pm

    Since the power transfer pact was made between Najis and “flip-flopping” Pak Lah, from now on Najis will be Pak Lah’s “yes man” in case “flip-flopping” Pak Lah changes his mind. Najis’ “obedience” to Pak Lah was evident in the Proton/Mercedes fiasco – not only he did not go against Pak Lah’s decision but also told reporters that everything had been settled and asked them to stop questioning.

    Najis did not want his name to be nominated for presidency contest yesterday; presumably he wanted to choose the “safe route” to premiership – that is through traditional power transfer. Should he agree to have his name submitted for presidency contest, he will be haunted by c4 and Altantuya’s murder and that will lessen his chance of becoming UMNO president and hence the next premier.

  8. #8 by Captain on Sunday, 27 July 2008 - 7:31 pm

    The only economic reform Badawi can do is bring and rear Camel in Kepala Batas.

    Otherwise, Badawi will be remmeberred in History as the greatest destroyer of 23 millions peoples’ future.

  9. #9 by yhsiew on Sunday, 27 July 2008 - 7:53 pm

    Sorry to sidetrack.

    Karpal Singh has fallen into UMNO’s trap asking PR to reconsider PAS membership within PR-coalition.

  10. #10 by js on Sunday, 27 July 2008 - 8:56 pm

    YB LKS,

    Please ask Karpal to shut his mouth. Thks.

  11. #11 by limkamput on Sunday, 27 July 2008 - 9:17 pm

    Sometimes Economist Intelligence Unit is not so intelligent. Give me a break, AAB “want to pursue economic reforms more energetically in an effort to establish his legacy”. The only thing he cares about is to cling on to his position whatever it may cost this country. It is obvious he is buying time and hope for situation to turn around. That is why he is willing to take all the insults. He has passed the threshold; there is no legacy to establish; there is no legacy to protect. He has only one objective – to remain as PM for as long as he can hold on to it.

    We think he is stupid. Two years is a long time in politics. During that time so many things can happen. By end of 2010, there may be no one asking him to leave!!!!

  12. #12 by monsterball on Sunday, 27 July 2008 - 9:37 pm

    He asked for it……paying games with Mahathir and not work sincerely for Malaysians…for years.
    He promoted his nice guy image…far too long..being irrespons8ible and no work done.
    His clear weakness.is his great selfishness…the usual UMNO borak attitude….deny and deny…and worst of all…supported sodomy charges against Anwar.
    That’s his downfall..showing how cunning and dirty in politics…he can be.
    More and more UMNO members are loosing respect and faith in him….seeing a cunning selfish PM…at work.

  13. #13 by bystander on Sunday, 27 July 2008 - 9:37 pm

    It is a fact that umnoputras are so thick and stupid. just look at starting with Pm, then DPM, SHA, rais, Kerimuddin, KT, MB trengganu, IGP, AG, etcetcetc. just a bunch of morons with pea brains and without conscience and accountability.

  14. #14 by FanOfKit on Sunday, 27 July 2008 - 9:39 pm

    I am really what will happen to this country especially when the whole world is not doing so good. Previously when mamak was around, we had the confidence in him to weather the storm during the 90s world economic. This time around, I have absolutely no confidence at all towards this sleeping PM and his goons in running the country with at least a near-sound management of the economy. This lame duck will certainly go down in history as the main cause of hardship for millions of us Malaysians.

    Berundurlah Bodowi. For once, do what’s right for the country. If you are ashamed of retiring and living amongst us, you can always exile to Perth.

  15. #15 by milduser on Sunday, 27 July 2008 - 10:17 pm

    i remember when bodowi took over the premiership, he was scrutinized for his leadership style. he was branded a servant leader, someone who likes to serve the people. time has passed and the verdict – lame duck leadership, what a shame for his legacy. the 2 years extension will not help, if it does not get worse. he should quickly bow out gracefully and apologise to the rakyat for his total failure and take responsibility like a gentleman. of the failure is not totally his own. he may pass some buck to his former boss, TDM for selecting him, not knowing that bodowi is as incompetent as himself. slowing destroying the country by his ‘total’ control of the judiciary. TDM had 100% control of the executive (gomen), 75% of the parliment (law making) and 80%? of the judiciary (through the ‘correct, correct, correct’ strategy. As the former LP said, TDM had an ambition to become a DICTATOR.

    Hitler, the great dictator had 100% of all the three, plus a powerful secret police force to hunt down rebels. german history records that Hitler’s party (NAZI) had the power (by-passing parliament) to introduced laws that suppress the citizens and other races that deemed inferior, like the Jews!

  16. #16 by Samuel Goh Kim Eng on Sunday, 27 July 2008 - 11:33 pm

    When one tries to buy time
    It’s tougher than selling lime
    Even when sold at merely a dime
    It’s still a price too prime

    (C) Samuel Goh Kim Eng – 270708
    Sun. 27th July 2008.

  17. #17 by xplora on Monday, 28 July 2008 - 1:53 am

    Today i went for foot massage, and guess what? 5% taxes.

    OMG? I heard they’re going to abolish the 5% taxes for the restaurant but in fact the taxes still being charged everywhere. I enquired and being told that “No such things or it takes long time to apply for tax-free”. What is our government doing?

    What’s going on with this Bodohwi, still not enough for you to eat?. No one ever can afford to live in Malaysia especially so many taxes and the recent gasoline price hike.

    We should be glad that we can still find some cash during Mahathir era and we can still slowly use it as long as we know how to save our money.

  18. #18 by yhsiew on Monday, 28 July 2008 - 8:03 am

    The police have already detained the doctor for three days but he still refuses to doctor his medical report. Anwar did not sodomise Saiful and the doctor’s report says it very clearly. And the police also have a copy of this same report that I have published below so they know what I know.


  19. #19 by k1980 on Monday, 28 July 2008 - 8:24 am

    Bijan’s farewell song to Altantoya

    Don’t cry for me Altantoya
    The truth is I never left you
    All through my wild days
    My mad existence
    I kept my promise
    Don’t keep your distance

    And as for fortune, and as for fame
    I always invited them in
    Though it seemed to the world they were all I desired

    They are illusions
    They are not the solutions they promised to be
    The answer was here all the time
    I love you and hope you love me

    Don’t cry for me Altantoya


    Have I said too much?
    There’s nothing more I can think of to say to you.
    But all you have to do is look at me to know
    That every word is true

  20. #20 by undergrad2 on Monday, 28 July 2008 - 8:33 am

    Altantuya is dead and you’re asking her not to cry for you?? Something is wrong somewhere!

  21. #21 by Yee Siew Wah on Monday, 28 July 2008 - 12:59 pm

    Under the present flip flop and sleepy PM, I dont think Malaysian can have vision anymore. Forget 2020 or even 2100. If the present bunch of clowns running the country what vision r we talking la!!
    And now PAS a self proclaimed Islamic party talking about race and religion with the Umnoputras. This is not Islamic considering the type of clowns they r talking with. I have now lost faith and trust on PAS. They can join Umnoputras for all they want.
    Let us PKR/DAP/MIC/MCA/SAPP/PBS etc… and concern NGOs work sincerely together and help move our country forward before we become regimes like Zambabwe, Somalia ..etc irrespective of race and religion. Race and religion SHOULD NOT, I repeat SHOULD NOT be involved in moving the country forward especially in real world of globalisation etc..

  22. #22 by negarawan on Monday, 28 July 2008 - 2:01 pm

    Hey Badawi, why our petrol price not coming down? Even Singapore has reduced its petrol price five times in the last one month, in line with the drop in crude oil price. Is UMNO fleecing and taking advantage of the rakyat?

  23. #23 by yhsiew on Monday, 28 July 2008 - 2:08 pm

    ruyom Says:
    Yesterday at 15: 08.09

    “……To achieve developed status by 2020, Malaysia should have registered at least an 8% economic growth annually……”

    Malaysia will never achieve developed nation status under the present government because you cannot be a first-world country with a legal system whose main characteristics are shared by the likes of Zimbabwe, Burma and North Korea – ASIA SENTINEL by John Berthelsen.

    Whether a country can be rated as a developed one, that depends primarily on its governance and policies. GDP per capita and technological achievements are of secondary consideration. In fact the EU (a group of advanced countries) was reluctant to admit Bulgaria and Romania into its fold due to rampant corruption and a rotten judiciary in these two countries. They were, however, finally admitted on 1 January 2007 on condition that they continued to speed up judicial reforms and tackle corruption.

  24. #24 by zak_hammaad on Monday, 28 July 2008 - 6:20 pm

    Mr Clean AAB is now longer Mr Clean and even TDM has regretted his decision. Where Anwar was eager to become PM and openly prompting the sale of Malaysia to foreigners with his naive grasp of economics and foreign policy; here we have a sleep-walking PM who will sleep-walk the country into unmitigated disaster!

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