Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Embattled Malaysian PM sworn in for second term

"Dunya" reliefburden@yahoo.com.sg

A ruling Barisan Nasional (National Front) coalition supporter ...
A ruling Barisan Nasional (National Front) coalition supporter watches updated election results on a screen in Kuala Lumpur. Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi was sworn in for his second term Monday, defying calls to quit after presiding over the ruling coalition's worst ever election results
(AFP/Tengku Bahar)
Embattled Malaysian PM sworn in for second term
KUALA LUMPUR, March 10, 2008 (AFP) - A defiant Abdullah Ahmad Badawi was sworn for a second term as Malaysian prime minister Monday, rejecting calls to quit after presiding over the ruling coalition's worst ever election results.
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Dressed in a traditional costume and matching "songkok" hat, Abdullah was sworn in by Malaysia's king in a solemn ceremony at the royal palace in Kuala Lumpur.
Also attending were his heir apparent, deputy prime minister Najib Razak, and other senior ministers.
Abdullah's coalition was mauled in Saturday's election, losing its crucial two-thirds majority in parliament for the first time since 1969 and conceding four states to the resurgent opposition, which now controls five in all.
Voters punished the government for rising inflation and its mishandling of racial tensions, leading to a backlash from Malaysia's minority ethnic Chinese Indians as well as Muslim Malays who form its powerbase.
But Abdullah told supporters he would not quit.
"Why should I step down?" he told a cheering crowd outside his home late Sunday. "Our party has won. I do not fear anyone except Allah. I will stay on, I will not give up.
"We have to continue our struggle, our agenda is far from over. We want our country to be progressive and successful and for you, the people, to be happy," he added.
Abdullah's task now is to form a new government under the Barisan Nasional coalition, dominated by his United Malays National Organisation (UMNO).
"I give you my word, ladies and gentlemen, that I will continue my efforts to strengthen UMNO and Barisan Nasional, to launch the manifesto that we have promised so that our country will be safe, peaceful and properous," he said.
Veteran leader Mahathir Mohamad, who ruled for two decades before handing power to Abdullah as his chosen successor in 2003, accused the prime minister of "destroying" the coalition and led calls for his resignation.
"I think he should accept responsibility for this. He should accept 100 percent responsibility," Mahathir said Sunday.
"I am sorry, but I apparently made the wrong choice."
However there was support for Abdullah from abroad, with the United States signalling it was ready to keep up close cooperation with the government and saying he remained a viable partner.
"We have seen the preliminary election results and we look forward to working closely with Prime Minister Abdullah's government on a wide range of issues of mutual interest," State Department spokesman Kurtis Cooper told AFP.
Meanwhile the opposition, led by former deputy premier Anwar Ibrahim -- who has made a stunning political comeback after his sacking and jailing a decade ago -- was getting down to business.
The opposition parties -- Anwar's Keadilan, the Chinese-based Democratic Action Party (DAP) and the Islamic party PAS -- won an unprecedented four states in the polls.
PAS also extended its margin in northern Kelantan state, which it already held by a thin majority. State media said PAS would appoint chief ministers in Kedah and Perak while a DAP figure will preside in Penang and a Keadilan chief minister will run Selangor. Anwar said late Sunday that the coalition parties would be able to put aside their ideological differences and govern effectively. He said they would "focus on the economic issue and trying to resolve some of the problems affecting the masses, particularly in the issue of poverty and the normal needs of an average citizen. "What was promised will be enforced with the best of ability." Anwar is banned from holding public office until April due to a conviction for corruption, and had said before the vote that he would enter parliament in a by-election in a Keadilan-held seat. However, he said there were no immediate plans to do that as he had a full workload rallying the newly-elected Keadilan lawmakers.
"I'm not rushed to prepare for a by-election," he added.
A man walks in front of a billboard of National Front coalition ...
A man walks in front of a billboard of National Front coalition showing picture of Malaysia's Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi in downtown Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Sunday, March 9, 2008. Malaysians delivered a stinging rebuke to the ruling coalition with a massive protest vote, giving opposition parties control of five states and one-third of the parliament in the country's biggest electoral upset.
(AP Photo/Vincent Thian)
Malaysia PM blunder may be costly to him
By VIJAY JOSHI, Associated Press Writer Sun Mar 9
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia - Malaysia's prime minister may have made his biggest political blunder by calling early elections that only exposed public anger over simmering racial tensions and his perceived missteps.
Abdullah Ahmad Badawi's ruling coalition was dealt a string of defeats in Saturday's general elections, which analysts said Sunday will place him under pressure to resign.
"He misread the signs. A lot of people were voting against Badawi," said Malik Imtiaz Sarwar, a human rights lawyer and political commentator. "He became the face of the mismanagement of the country. People were beginning to really, really dislike him despite his affable demeanor."
But national news agency Bernama quoted the prime minister as saying he does not need to step down because he still has strong support, especially from ruling party leaders.
"I will not resign because there is no pressure," Abdullah was quoted as saying, adding that he would be sworn in on Monday at the national palace for a new five-year term.
The opposition gained control of five of Malaysia's 13 states and a third of its parliament in the biggest electoral upset in the country's history. Abdullah's National Front coalition lost its two-thirds majority in the 222-member parliament for the first time in four decades, winning only a simple majority of 139 seats.
The results were seen as a verdict against a string of perceived missteps by Abdullah, 68, and his failure to fulfill promises made ahead of the 2004 elections, which the National Front won in its biggest victory ever.
Among those missteps, analysts said, Abdullah ignored Malaysia's widening poverty gap and increasing cost of living. He made his son-in-law Khairy Jamaluddin one of his advisers. And when the southern state of Johor was struggling after floods in late 2006, Abdullah was in Perth to inaugurate his brother's curry restaurant.
Some even criticized him for remarrying less than two years after his first wife died of cancer and then engaging in public displays of affection.
"At a time when the country is crumbling around us we have to watch his lovey-dovey going-ons with his wife," said Malik. "People don't want to see a lovable teddy bear. They want a tough leader."
Abdullah's next big test will come later this year when he faces the general assembly of the United Malays National Organization, the largest party in the National Front coalition. A date has not yet been set.
"The reality is that there will be tremendous pressure within UMNO for him (Abdullah) to step down," said Bridget Welsh of the Johns Hopkins University, an expert on Southeast Asia who was in Malaysia to monitor the polls.
Former longtime leader Mahathir Mohamad already has called for Abdullah's resignation, saying he had "apparently made the wrong choice" when he hand-picked Abdullah to succeed him in 2003.
The National Front is a coalition of 11 small parties and three major ones that represent Malaysia's main ethnic groups � the majority Muslim Malays who make up 60 percent of the 27 million population, the Chinese at 25 percent and Indians at 8 percent.
Traditionally, Malays have voted for UMNO, the Chinese for the Malaysian Chinese Association and the Indians for the Malaysian Indian Congress.
The power-sharing arrangement has worked as long as the three races believed only their parties could look after their respective communities' interests. But the minorities have become increasingly disappointed with their parties.
The Chinese and Indians are angry about an affirmative action program known as the New Economic Policy that has given Malays preference in jobs, education, business, housing, finance and religion since 1971.

They also worry that their religious rights are being eroded by the government. Several Indian temples were destroyed by authorities last year, purportedly for illegal construction, and many courts presiding over religious disputes ruled in favor of Muslims. Ordinary Malays also are unhappy, many charging that the benefits of the New Economic Policy are being reaped only by rich and well-connected Malays. Repressive police tactics haven't helped ease the tension. In October, officers dispersed thousands of people with tear gas and water cannons at a street protest for electoral and judicial reforms. A month later, minority Indians were chased away by the police when they held a rally to protest against racial discrimination. Five of their leaders were jailed under a law that allows indefinite detention without trial. These frustrations were tapped by the opposition parties, which for the first time set aside their ideological differences and came together to pose a united challenge. Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim campaigned on a platform that urged people to look outside race-based politics. Although the opposition parties are also identified by race, they have agreed to build a multiracial alliance where all races will be treated equally.
"What is crucial now is how the opposition works as a coalition," Welsh said.
"The mandate given to them has created a national opposition for the first time."


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Daripada Abu Umarah iaitu al-Bara' bin 'Azib radhiallahu anhuma, katanya: "Kita semua diperintah oleh Rasulullah s.a.w. untuk melakukan tujuh perkara, iaitu meninjau orang sakit, mengikuti janazah, menentasymitkan orang yang bersin, menolong orang yang lemah, membantu orang yang teraniaya, meratakan salam dan melaksanakan sumpah."

(Muttafaq 'alaih)

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