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Wednesday October 8, 2008 MYT 5:28:22 PM
KUALA LUMPUR: Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi will not defend his Umno presidency in the party polls next March, paving the way for his deputy Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak.
He told this to reporters after a Barisan Nasional Supreme Council meeting at the Putra World Trade Centre here on Wednesday.
Abdullah also told reporters that he would “stay on as Prime Minister” till March.
By tradition, the Umno president and deputy president become the prime minister and deputy prime minister respectively. Najib is expected to run for president, and if he wins, would become the nation’s sixth prime minister.
On Sept 26, Abdullah had said after a special Umno supreme council meeting that he would decide by Oct 9 whether he would defend his party presidency.
At the meeting, it was also decided that the Umno general assembly and supreme council elections, scheduled for Dec 16 to 20, will be postponed to March next year to facilitate an early transition of power from Abdullah to Najib.
Abdullah’s also said that the original June 2010 plan to hand over power as Prime Minister and Umno president was now off.
“We are talking about an earlier transition, so the 2010 plan does not arise any more,” he had said.
Earlier on Wednesday, groups of supporters gathered outside the Umno headquarters here ahead of Abdullah’s meeting with the supreme council.
The supporters claimed to be from Umno divisions in Perak and Johor, as well as various non-governmental organisations.
Abdullah arrived at about 3.36pm to shouts of “Hidup Pak Lah” (Long live, Pak Lah).
Supporters were also heard shouting for Abdullah to follow the transition plan instead of stepping down now.
The supporters gathered outside the Umno building were holding banners which read “Hidup Pak Lah”, “Hormati Pengalihan Kuasa” (Respect the transition of power) and “Elak Perpecahan party” (Avoid splitting the party).
There has been a lot of dissatisfaction within Barisan after the March 8 general election, which saw the ruling coalition lose its two-thirds majority in Parliament, as well as ceding control of five states to the Pakatan Rakyat opposition alliance.
Large portions of the Umno grassroots, as well as many leaders, have been clamouring for a leadership change.
Abdullah’s political career began in 1978 when he resigned as the deputy secretary-general of the Culture, Youth & Sports Ministry to successfully contest for the Kepala Batas parliamentary seat.
Following the victory he was appointed Parliamentary Secretary to the Federal Territory Ministry.
He became Kepala Batas Umno division chief in 1979 and won a seat in the Umno supreme council two years later. He was Umno vice-president for two periods – from 1984 to 1990 and again from 1996 to 2001.
In May 2000, he became Umno deputy president and on Sept 23, 2004, Abdullah won uncontested the Umno president’s post.
ABDULLAH’S UMNO CAREER
Sept 23, 2004: Won uncontested as Umno President
May 2000: Umno deputy president
1998: Chairman of Penang Umno state liaison committee
1996 – 2001: Umno vice-president
1993 – 1996: Umno supreme council member
1990: Head of Umno delegation to the National Economic Consultative Committee/ Chairman of the Committee on the Restructuring of Society
1984 – 1990: Umno vice-president
1981: Umno supreme council member
1979:- Bertam Umno branch chief
1979: Kepala Batas Umno division chief
1978 to present: Kepala Batas MP