Friday, September 26, 2008

Umno polls put off to March

By Shannon Teoh

KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 26 — Umno has postponed its party elections to March next year to facilitate an early transition plan, Datuk Seri Abdullah Badawi announced today.

The party polls had been scheduled for December. However, divisional elections will proceed as scheduled from Oct 9 to Nov 9, the supreme council decided at an emergency meeting this morning at Umno headquarters.

Abdullah speaks to the press after the meeting. — Picture by Choo Choy May

Abdullah said he has not decided whether he will defend his post as president. He will make an announcement before Oct 9.

"I am not under any pressure. It will be my decision," he said. "The postponement of the AGM is to facilitate the transition plan."

"It will be my decision alone but you can go on guessing."

The original plan was for Abdullah to hand over power to Najib in June 2010.

Earlier the party president and his No. 2 jointly presented the proposal to the Supreme Council.

According to Supreme Council members The Malaysian Insider spoke to, the proposal was well received and greeted with relief.

Today's decision comes after a week of intense speculation over the future of both Abdullah and Najib.

The two men had originally hammered out a transition plan that would have seen Najib take over the reins of power by 2010, but this has come under heavy criticism.

While the party's polls have been postponed, the divisional meetings, where nominations for the party's top posts will come from, starting from October 9, will proceed as scheduled.

Hence, there is a need for the Prime Minister to announce before Oct 9 whether he will defend the presidency.

Abdullah did not, however, elaborate on what he meant by an early transition, but this is widely believed to mean he will definitely leave office before 2010.

"This is to accelerate whatever procedure that needs to be carried out and will be decided between me and Najib. If we want to make it earlier than 2010, it is not an issue," said Abdullah.

Abdullah also denied he was under pressure to quit, or that he was going on leave soon.

"Maybe there are two or three people who feel that way but in the majority there is no reason to pressure because they know my relationship with Najib is good," he said.

"As far as I am concerned, I love my party. Even under the most difficult circumstances I never left. I never joined Semangat 46, I never joined any other party, or been on the platform of an opposition party to speak against Umno. There is no record of me attacking my party at all," he replied when asked if he was willing to sacrifice his own career for the party.

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