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Malaysia PM won't quit despite debacle

...Abdullah has no plan to quit, his spokesman says, hours after he led his ruling coalition to its worst loss.
Reuters | By Clarence Fernandez, Kuala Lumpur
UPDATED ON MAR 09, 2008 05:08 PM IST

Malaysia's premier has no plan to step down after leading his ruling coalition to its worst-ever election disaster in which the opposition Islamists and reformists won control of five of the nation's 13 states.

Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi's multi-racial National Front coalition won just a simple majority in parliament, and his future as leader is in doubt after he watched a record majority collapse to the weakest level ever.

But Abdullah had no plan to quit, his spokesman said on Sunday, despite urging by predecessor Mahathir Mohamad that the prime minister must take responsibility for the election defeat.

"There are no plans to resign," Abdullah's spokesman, Kamal Khalid said. "He still has plans to proceed to the palace tomorrow morning to take the oath of office."

Mahathir urged Abdullah to quit. "He should accept responsibility," said Mahathir, who now says he made a mistake in picking Abdullah as his successor and that the current deputy premier, Najib Razak, should have taken over.

The streets were unusually quiet, with many older Malaysians fearful of trouble. The last time the coalition suffered a heavy setback, in 1969, race riots erupted. Barisan has effectively ruled since independence from Britain in 1957.

"I don't like Barisan Nasional," said Latipah, a 28-year manicurist in Kuala Lumpur. "I think the prime minister is indecisive, slow and confused. But I'm afraid there will be trouble now that they've lost badly."

She said she was glad Malaysia now had a strong opposition to press the government.

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