Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Malaysia opposition wants “handover talks” with PM

KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) - Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim is seeking a meeting with Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi on Tuesday to discuss a handover of power after declaring that he had won over enough government MPs to form the next government.

Anwar needs to convince 30 legislators from the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition to join his three-party opposition alliance in order to get a parliamentary majority.

At a rally on Monday night, he said he had done so, although none of the government’s 140 MPs have publicly declared for Anwar.

“He wanted to meet with the prime minister,” a spokesman for Anmwar’s Keadilan party said on Tuesday.

No one from the government was immediately available for comment and Abdullah insisted on Monday that he would remain prime minister and that a change of government would not happen.

Anwar’s opposition alliance has 82 MPs in the 222-strong Malaysian parliament and he has been trying to convince 30 government MPs to change sides so as to oust the coalition that has run Malaysia for 51 years since independence from Britain.

He says that if he wins power he will root out corruption and end a system of affirmative action for ethnic Malays, over half of the population in this nation of 27 million people.

Anwar says that the system has not only failed the people it was aimed at helping, but has also created a class of crony businessmen entirely dependent on government contracts, which has hurt the country’s economic prospects.

Malaysian newspapers treated Anwar’s announcement with scepticism on Tuesday, saying that he had not yet shown that he could form a new government.

“It is the 16th of September, 2008. And we do not know what if anything will happen. We do not know what, if anything is going on,” the pro-government New Straits Times wrote in an editorial.

Malaysia’s stock market sold off early on Tuesday losing 2.26 percent.

Dealers said this was partly due to concerns over Malaysian politics and partly due to global financial market uncertainty caused by the U.S. banking crisis.