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UMNO meet to discuss PM's future

world Updated: Sep 26, 2008 10:32 IST
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Malaysia's ruling party held emergency talks on Friday, amid speculation Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi could be forced to step down in 2009, a year earlier than planned.

Top leaders of the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) were widely reported to be discussing a much-criticised plan for Abdullah to quit in mid-2010 in favour of his deputy Najib Razak.

Elements in the ruling party have said the transition plan is undemocratic and that Abdullah who has been in the firing line since March elections that handed the opposition unprecedented gains should depart much sooner.

The premier is also fending off a bid to topple the government by opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, who says he has the support of enough defecting lawmakers to form a new administration.

Newspaper reports said it was possible that UMNO leadership elections which could have seen a humiliating leadership battle would be postponed from December until June 2009, when Abdullah would step down voluntarily.

Cabinet minister Nazri Aziz admitted that some within the party wanted Abdullah to stay on until 2010 as planned, while others preferred to leave the decision to party members.

"I believe the meeting will come to some kind of compromise. I believe, to accommodate both views, we will most likely cancel the coming December party elections," he told the New Straits Times.

However, elements in the party who have been pushing for the leadership to be decided openly and democratically could oppose any postponement.

UMNO councillor Abdul Latiff Ahmad told the daily that the decision on who would helm the party must be made by ordinary members.

"We should leave it to them. Moreover, everyone has been preparing for December," he said.