Malaysia PM rejects calls to resign amid turmoil

Abdullah Ahmad Badawi claimed he won a strong mandate in elections.

Malaysia PM rejects calls to resign amid turmoil

Malaysia's prime minister has rejected calls for him to resign, claiming he won a 'strong' mandate in elections that gave the opposition its biggest gains in the country's history.

Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi acknowledged that support for his National Front coalition had plunged in last week's elections _ from 91 percent of the parliamentary seats to 63 percent _ or 140 seats in the 222-member chamber.

Still, the ruling coalition managed to get a strong majority,' just eight short of two-thirds of the seats, Abdullah said in an interview late Friday on state television.

This is still a mandate given to me. I will not run away from my responsibility to carry out the wishes of the people,' he said.

ABDULLAH'S COMMENTS CAME AFTER MUKHRIZ MAHATHIR

Abdullah's comments came after the son of former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad asked Abdullah to resign to take responsibility for the election debacle.

Besides the decline in Parliament, the National Front also lost elections for legislatures in an unprecedented five of Malaysia's 13 states.

The results sent a sufficiently clear message regarding the people's rejection of (you) as the country's leader,' Mukhriz Mahathir, a government lawmaker, said in a letter sent to Abdullah on Thursday. It was made public Friday.

Abdullah said he has the full backing of members of his ruling United Malays National Organization, which forms the foundation of the National Front, and will let UMNO youth take action against Mukhriz.

However, he said he accepted that the vote signaled people were dissatisfied and wanted change. He said ethnic Chinese and Indian minorities were unhappy with the implementation of development plans.

Whatever I can do I will do,' Abdullah said. I will focus on the implementation and rectify weaknesses to ensure fair distribution for all races.'

But it was clear that the unexpected election results were causing tensions. In the first sign of partisan tensions after the polls, boisterous about 300 UMNO members protested Friday outside the state government office in the Chinese-majority Penang state.

Chanting Long Live Malays,' they demanded that the newly installed Penang government, now controlled by the Chinese-dominated opposition Democratic Action Party, retain a decades-old affirmative action program for majority Malays. They dispersed after an hour when police arrived.

In Selangor state, about 60 UMNO members demonstrated near the Selangor chief minister's office, demanding the state government not meddle with the NEP. They dispersed after 20 minutes upon seeing police vehicles.

Abdullah accused the opposition of instigating the Malays.

The government has tried to nurture harmony among the three races since ethnic riots in 1969 that killed more than 200 people. But ethnic Chinese and Indians have voiced growing fears in recent years that they receive second-class treatment. The minority disenchantment was a major reason for the National Front's losses.

Agencies
Last Mod: 15 Mart 2008, 13:25
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