02 June, 2008

Dr M outlines plan to oust PM without losing power.

Poster curi from Scott Thong

Malaysia's influential former premier Mahathir Mohamad urged disgruntled ruling party lawmakers not to defect to the opposition to oust the embattled prime minister, but to become independents.

In a de facto masterplan for toppling Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi without losing power, Mahathir said becoming independent lawmakers meant they could avoid opposition figurehead Anwar Ibrahim having a shot at the job.

Mahathir urged UMNO lawmakers not to join opposition ranks in order to push Abdullah out but to become independent candidates instead.

"Say 35 of them come out (of UMNO), the government will collapse, the prime minister will have to resign and if Anwar tries to become the PM you don't give your votes to him," Mahathir said.

"If say Najib, if he has the guts, decides to step in and be the candidate for prime ministership, you can then give your 35 votes to him and he becomes the PM, no loss to anyone, except to Abdullah."

Did you smell something?

Anwar, for his part, has said he is confident of attracting enough defecting government lawmakers to topple Abdullah's administration, but Mahathir brushed aside that claim.

"I think it's a pipe dream," he said.

"He has the money but he is not likely to get the support for crossing over. Crossing over is very painful."

And now, Malaysia's opposition says some government lawmakers may change mind about defecting.

Some Malaysian government lawmakers who were planning to defect to the opposition might change their minds now that the prime minister has announced policy changes to win their allegiance, opposition leaders said.

Worries about potential defections were believed to be a main reason that Abdullah promised on Saturday to increase funding and improve administrative policies for Sabah, a poor eastern state where complaints about government neglect have simmered for years.

Syed Husin Ali, deputy president of the People's Justice Party, insisted that the "core people who are fully committed" about defecting will not change their minds because they realize Abdullah's reforms were not enough to tackle their grievances.

"There will be a few people who will be influenced by this. There will be some marginal effect," he said, adding that the crossovers would be announced in September "by the latest."

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