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Mar 13, 2008

Dissenters Calls for Malaysia PM to Quit

By SEAN YOONG | Associated Press Writer

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia - Some Malaysian ruling party members are mounting an Internet campaign demanding the prime minister's resignation after massive losses in national elections over the weekend.

The initiative is an indication of brewing dissent against Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, who has repeatedly insisted he will not step down and that he commands the loyalty of most members of his dominant United Malays National Organization.

A popular Web site called Maya Kmu Dot Net sought support this week for a petition urging Abdullah to "resign voluntarily as prime minister and UMNO president." Although anonymously run, it is known to be widely read by UMNO members because it features criticism about the party that cannot be aired in regular party forums.

The site says it has conducted a poll in which some 90 percent of more than 2,500 respondents so far say Abdullah should quit.

Mohamad Noh Zainudin, an UMNO grass-roots official who pledged support for the petition, said Thursday that Abdullah must shoulder the blame for "the government's poor image, which caused the bad results" in Saturday's general elections.

"At the grassroots level, there is a feeling that the prime minister should step down," Mohamad Noh, an UMNO branch official in northern Perak state, told The Associated Press. "The senior leaders cannot express this because there is a culture of not speaking out."

Top party leaders have backed Abdullah, saying no one is solely responsible for election results that saw the long-ruling government lose its two-thirds parliamentary majority for the first time since 1969 despite winning enough seats to remain in power.

UMNO, whose members are from the ethnic Malay Muslim majority, forms the backbone of the governing National Front coalition. The election results were the worst ever for the 14-party coalition, which only retained control of eight of Malaysia's 13 states.

Abdullah took his oath of office Monday to remain prime minister for another five-year term. Deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak said this week that UMNO leaders would reject any calls for Abdullah to resign, adding there should not be "any speculation or effort to change leadership."


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