Malaysia leader seeks stronger party for elections

Malaysia`s leader announced a national tour to rally support for his ruling party.

Updated: Oct 23, 2010, 22:30 PM IST

Kuala Lumpur: Malaysia`s leader announced
on Saturday a national tour to rally support for his ruling party,
strengthening speculation that he might call for early general
elections next year.

Prime Minister Najib Razak said he plans to visit each of
Malaysia`s 13 states with his deputy next year and make
changes in the administrative ranks of his United Malays
National Organization, which has enjoyed 53 years of
uninterrupted rule but suffered severe setbacks in 2008
national polls.

"Whatever the situation, we must defend Putrajaya", Najib
said, referring to Malaysia`s administrative capital, in a
nationally televised speech at the end of his ruling party`s
annual congress.

The next general elections are not due until 2013. But
many political observers believe Najib could hold snap polls
next year or early in 2012 if he recaptures sufficient support
from voters who complain of corruption and racism in his
ethnic Malay Muslim party, which is the core of the governing
coalition.

Malaysia, which has large populations of Indians and
Chinese in addition to its Malay majority, has enjoyed decades
of amicable race relations, but minorities are increasingly
complaining that the country`s affirmative action programme
that benefits Malays in business, jobs and education is unfair
and outdated.

Najib`s coalition has slightly less than a two-thirds
majority in Parliament, one of its weakest holds in history. A
three-party opposition alliance led by charismatic figure
Anwar Ibrahim has promised social and economic justice for all
Malaysians regardless of race if it wins power.

While he must reach out to minorities to ensure victory
at the polls, Najib also tried to shore up support among
Malays today. He urged them to keep his party in control,
saying their economic future would be endangered if the
opposition wins the next elections.

He also said he was working on transforming his party to
help it fulfill the people`s needs better, such as by ensuring
that financial perks go to people who need them, instead of
the well-connected elite.

PTI