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Thursday, September 30, 2010

Umno’s fight to stay in power is threat to stability, says report


KUALA LUMPUR (Malaysian Insider) — A recent report by The Economist has singled out intrigues within Umno and the ruling party’s determination to stay in power at all costs as the biggest threats to political stability in Malaysia.

The Economist Intelligence Unit country report also suggested that Pakatan Rakyat (PR) would make gains, but was “unlikely to garner enough parliamentary seats to form a majority government.”

Malaysia’s stability over the last five decades has depended on three “steadying factors”: Barisan Nasional’s (BN) firm hold on power, Umno’s tight control of BN and Malay majority support for Umno,” said the magazine’s Intelligence Report on Malaysia for October.

It noted, however, that all three were no longer a given, as shown by BN’s poor showing in Election 2008 and the historic sweep by PR parties of five states and 82 parliamentary seats.

“The March 2008 general election showed that all three influences have weakened. As a result, these forces may prove unable to hold the country’s political framework together in 2010-14,” the report said.

“Political intrigues within Umno, coupled with its determination to stay in power at all costs, therefore constitute the biggest threats to political stability in Malaysia.”

Factions within Umno have been embroiled in a struggle to determine the party’s direction in recent months, following attempts by party president Datuk Seri Najib Razak to implement market-friendly reforms.

Najib, who is also the prime minister, has faced considerable opposition from conservative elements within his own party to reforms that are seen to threaten Malay special rights.

He also faces an uphill struggle to sell his New Economic Model (NEM) to the Malay community at large — whose response has been tepid — and has come under attack from increasingly influential Malay pressure groups like Perkasa.

On top of that, former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad continues to snipe from the sidelines.

The Economist Intelligent Unit report also predicted that BN would lose more seats in the next general election as Umno could no longer count on the support of “better educated, liberal middle-class Malays”, who favoured the opposition.

“The most likely election outcome would seem to be a further loss of seats for the BN, as younger moderate Malay voters — disenchanted by political scandals and Umno’s strong promotion of Islamic values — decline to give it their support, and Indian and Chinese voters remain reluctant to return,” it said.

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