Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi’s premiership de facto ended yesterday, September 26, 2008 – 54 months after scoring the most stunning landslide electoral victory for any Prime Minister in the nation’s 51-year history.
How far and how fast Abdullah has fallen!
All the Umno heavyweights are now engaged in a marionette play – how to plunge the dagger into Abdullah’s back without blood being seen to be drawn or better still even camouflaging from the Malaysian public the act of dagger-stabbing altogether.
Although Abdullah claimed that it would be his decision, “whether to contest or not” the post of Umno President, there could be no doubt that if Abdullah departs from the script and fails to announce by before October 9 that he would not be offering himself as a candidate as Umno President, the marionette play would be abandoned and the dagger-stabbing would be a very public and bloody one.
Even the sweet-sounding praises by Umno leaders yesterday over the scuttling of Abdullah’s original mid-2010 power-transition plan and the postponement of the Umno general assembly from December to March next year sounded rather ominous if Abdullah ignores the unmistakable signal that he should not dilly-dally any more in making his exit.
For instance, when asked whether he was satisfied with the outcome of the Umno Supreme Council emergency meeting yesterday although there was no clearcut indication of an exist date, the most hawkish of the Umno leaders against Abdullah, Tan Sri Muhyidddin Yassin, commented: “I think it is good enough. You need to have trust. There must be a certain element of trust in whatever decision the leadership Is making today.”
Abdullah must be aware that he would be regarded as lacking “a certain element of trust” if he failed to announce that he would not be offering his candidacy for Umno President by the Oct. 9 deadline.
In the circumstances, Abdullah has three options before him:
• Announce before the October 9 deadline his intention to contest for the post of Umno President, retaining the initiative in his hands as to his own timeline to effect the power transition;
• Announce that he would not be contesting for the Umno President in the Umno party election in March, which also mark the end of his premiership; and
• Announce his retirement as Prime Minister by Oct. 9.
In the first option, Abdullah would be fighting for his political life as he would have to prove first that he is capable of winning 58 or one-third of the Umno division nominations for the post of Umno President.
This may be a very tall order and he must be prepared to suffer the ignominy of an incumbent Prime Minister and Umno President who could not secure adequate nominations to contest for the post of Umno President.
In the second option, Abdullah would be a lame-duck Prime Minister for six months.
Apart from the third option of immediate retirement as Prime Minister, is there a fourth option open to Abdullah?