25 August, 2008

Permatang Pauh By-Elections - BN loss could hasten Pak Lah's exit ?

A big victory for Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim in Permatang Pauh tomorrow could spoil Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi"s two-year succession plan, and force an earlier handover of power.

Even his loyalists in Umno concede that the mutterings about the sense of drift in the country and the lack of strong leadership in Barisan Nasional have grown louder in the last few weeks, and they expect party officials to call for a quicker transfer of power to Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak if Anwar wins the by-election by a larger majority than the 13,000 margin his wife managed on March 8.

A party official, who requested anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the topic, told The Malaysian Insider: "The BN machinery has not been at its best.

There is no cohesion among the parties and little fighting spirit. If Anwar wins big, questions will be raised about the preparations and leadership. Ultimately, it will fall on Pak Lah."

A heavy defeat at the hands of Anwar tomorrow will only serve to deepen the gloom and force coalition partners to consider their future in BN and cast major doubts on whether Abdullah can help them regain their lustre.

The situation is less grim in Umno but Cabinet ministers and senior politicians are wondering whether Abdullah will be able to stay on till mid 2010, saying that they are concerned that the PM may not be up to the task of steering the country through this more challenging economic times.

There have not been any calls for him to step down recently but this silence masks a sense of despair among ministers and senior politicians.

Meanwhile, Anwar Ibrahim says he has no qualms about toppling the government with legislative defections, saying the country cannot afford to wait four years for the next elections to bring about change.

"Four years will be disastrous for the economy, the political system, the judiciary," Anwar said late Saturday.

Anwar's aides say at least 30 lawmakers in the governing coalition intend to defect if he enters Parliament. A former deputy prime minister with ambitions for the top job, Anwar has said he will bring down the government of Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi by Sept. 16.

Anwar also rejected criticism that a government formed by defections would have no moral authority to rule. He said the opposition would have come to power anyway had the elections been totally fair.

Also, the country is reeling from economic mismanagement and corruption, and should not have to wait for four years for a change of government, he said.

"No, 1, you have a situation where the election was stolen from you. No. 2, there is no direction, no leadership. Can you imagine - with this leadership, this policy, this crime rate, this economy - can the country manage and survive for four years?" he said.

"My point is, we will lose a lot if we wait for four years," he said.

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