Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Umno's power transition has begun

Umno's power transition has begun


(Malaysian Insider) SEPT 17 Mid-2010 is the finish line but the transfer of power from Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi to his deputy Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak kicked in today.

By handing over the powerful finance portfolio to Najib, Abdullah was making good on a promise to flesh out his transition plan and give the DPM more important responsibilities to prepare him for the top job in the country.

It was also a concession:

- To someone who has stuck by him through a tumultuous six months since the debacle of Election 2008, when calls for him to step down as president of Umno and the PM have grown louder and more bellicose. And whose support he still needs to fend off the challenge of Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin;

- To concerns among investors and the public that someone new was needed at the helm of the finance ministry to inject confidence in the handling of the economy.

The Malaysian Insider understands that the ministry swap ~ Najib going to finance and Abdullah taking over defence ~ was discussed during three meetings in recent days between both men.

Top of the agenda in those discussions was the transition plan. Najib said that he was committed to the plan but noted that the he and Abdullah needed to do much more to regain ground with Umno members and Malaysians.

Abdullah told Najib during one of these sessions that he did not intend to stay on longer than necessary. And as soon as he completed the task of reforming the judiciary, setting up the Anti-Corruption Commission and the Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission, he would hand over power to Najib.

This effectively means handing over power even before mid-2010.

Najib was at pains not to set a new timetable but added that it would be useful for him to be given more duties and responsibilities. The Malaysian Insider understands that after the Permatang Pauh by-election, supporters of the DPM have been pushing for him to have more say in the day-to-day running of the country.

Some of them have been hoping for him to snare the finance or Economic Planning Unit portfolio, believing that it would allow him to strengthen his position with the Umno ground and speed up the implementation of projects under the Ninth Malaysian Plan.

One common complaint has been that under Abdullah, the civil servants run the finance ministry and they have been known to frustrate rather than facilitate economic projects. As a result, there has been little multiplier effect and many of the corridor projects which the PM launched have been dreadfully slow to get off the ground.

On Monday morning, during the third meeting at Seri Perdana, Abdullah told Najib that he should take over the finance job, saying that this was part of the deal of giving him more responsibilities under the transition plan.

Najib was elated knowing that it would appease many of his supporters who have been nagging him for staying loyal to Abdullah. Tomorrow, both of them are expected to brief the Umno supreme council on the transition plan and the ministry swap.

In all likelihood, the powerful decision-making body will once again endorse the transition plan, knowing that the countdown has already started.

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