Sabtu, 06 September 2008

Malaysia's leader vows to foil opposition takeover

Malaysia's prime minister has vowed to foil opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim's plan to seize power, but denied trying to send government lawmakers on an overseas trip to hamper them from defecting to the opposition.

Anwar has threatened to engineer a slew of defections by legislators from Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi's ruling National Front coalition by Sept. 16, stirring deep anxiety among members of the coalition that has ruled Malaysia for 51 years.

Abdullah said at a news conference late Friday that his administration will "make sure that whatever they (the opposition) want to do on Sept. 16 will not happen."

"They're depending very much on our party people deserting us. Our party people will not desert us to give them the advantage of setting up a government on Sept. 16," Abdullah said.

The National Front retained power with only a simple parliamentary majority in March national polls, its worst electoral performance ever. Anwar's three-party opposition alliance needs at least 30 government lawmakers to defect to topple Abdullah's administration.

A National Front club announced Thursday it was organizing an "educational field trip" abroad this month for nearly 80 coalition lawmakers. The sudden announcement sparked speculation that the trip was a plot to stop lawmakers from defecting.

Local media have reported that the tour to study agricultural technology would be free for all participants. Organizers were still working out details, but the lawmakers would likely spend two weeks in several countries, possibly Australia, New Zealand, China or Taiwan.

Abdullah denied the trip was politically motivated, stressing that the lawmakers involved were "not people who want to cross over from the National Front to the opposition."

"If they want to go, let them go. Why link it to Sept. 16?" Abdullah said.

Most government leaders insist that Anwar's threat to oust the National Front is a bluff. Anwar, a former deputy prime minister, won a by-election last month that enabled him to re-enter Parliament and to become prime minister if his alliance takes power.

So far, no National Front lawmakers have declared any immediate intention to defect since March, though speculation has intensified in recent days that a first wave of crossovers could be announced as early as next week


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