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Two challengers waiting in the wings in Umno?

Date: 14 Dec 1999
Time: 19:28:03


Two challengers waiting in the wings in Umno?

Analysts believe that the alienation of Najib and Razaleigh, both powerful Umno leaders, will lead to a widening of fault lines within the party

KUALA LUMPUR -- The demotion of former education minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak and the decision not to include former finance minister Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah in the Cabinet could prompt the two alienated politicians to mount a joint leadership challenge in Umno, analysts said.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamad on Friday re-appointed most of his Cabinet team.

This had been read as a sign that he was not planning any significant changes in economic policy, the Asian Wall Street Journal reported yesterday.

It said that few analysts expected Malaysia's choppy political waters to be calmed by Dr Mahathir's decision to opt for continuity in his new Cabinet line-up.

The demotion of Datuk Najib, who was moved from the powerful Education Ministry to the defence portfolio, coupled with the Premier's decision not to include Tengku Razaleigh, was likely to widen fault lines within Umno, according to the AWSJ.

It quoted local political analysts as saying that the alienation of Datuk Najib and Tengku Razaleigh, both powerful leaders within Umno, could prompt the two politicians to join forces and mount a leadership challenge in Umno.

The party is due to hold its own party elections sometime in the middle of next year.

"The line-up really shows that Mahathir isn't ready for major reform politically or economically," the AWSJ quoted a senior strategist with a private think tank associated with the government as saying.

The strategist expects that Malaysia will continue to be dominated by the 73-year-old premier.

The AWSJ quoted a local manager as saying that the indication that policies would not change much would be "neutral at best" for the Kuala Lumpur Stock Exchange.

He added that the slow pace of corporate restructuring could be hampered further by the support of debt-laden corporations and their major shareholders.

The KLSE benchmark composite index rose 6.47 points on Friday, or 0.8 per cent, to close at 743.60.

Most analysts expect the index to hover around this level in the near term.

Last changed: December 14, 1999