KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 4 – Malaysia’s deputy prime minister appeared on Thursday to rule out early elections when he steps up to the premiership in March after the opposition called on the government to seek a new mandate.
The opposition has called for early elections while some government-supporting newspapers have said Deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak would want new polls to prove his strength.
“This is no time for politicking or to score points politically,” Najib told an economic conference.
Malaysia is struggling with an economic downturn that the government says will cut growth in 2009 to 3.5 percent, its lowest level in seven years. Some private sector forecasts say there will be no growth at all next year in this Asian country of 27 million people.
In elections last March, the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition suffered its worst ever result and lost the two-thirds parliamentary majority needed to change the constitution. The coalition has ruled Malaysia for 51 years.
That has forced Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi to hand over power to Najib earlier than a planned transfer in 2010.
Najib said Malaysia needed stability to cope with the economic crisis enveloping the world.
“The (2008) general election is over,” he told the conference.
A senior aide to Najib declined to comment on the record as to whether Najib had indeed ruled out early polls. However, he said the government had a five-year mandate from 2008 and needed to tackle the slowing economy.
Although deprived of its two-thirds majority, the government still has a big majority of 55 MPs in the 222-strong parliament. It faces a by-election in the next 60 days after the death of one of its MPs, but that will not fundamentally alter the balance of power.
Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim had claimed he would take power by Sept. 16 with the backing of 30 defectors from the governing coalition, but failed to deliver on his pledge.
Source : Reuters