Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak. Pic: AP.

Mahathir and his allies want to set a date for Malaysia’s prime minister to move out, reports Asia Sentinel 

Forces aligned with former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad appear to be attempting push embattled Malaysian Premier Najib Tun Razak into giving a time frame for his eventual departure from office and naming a successor, sources in Kuala Lumpur say.

The sources say that successor could be hard-line Home Affairs Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, 61, who was once an ally of opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim when Anwar was still in Mahathir’s government. Zahid is third in line for succession and his rise would bypass Muhyiddin Yassin, the current deputy president of UMNO and deputy prime minister, who is 66. Muhyiddin has said he will retire soon.

The scenario, the sources say, is similar to that forced upon Najib’s immediate predecessor, Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, who was pushed to name Najib and come up with a timeline in 2008 after the Barisan’s disastrous political showing in general elections. At that time, the ruling coalition lost its two-thirds majority in parliament for the first time in history. The campaign to push out Badawi lasted from the May 2008 election until April 2009, when Najib took office.

Although Mahathir left office as prime minister in 2003, he has kept up a constant barrage of criticism about the way the country has been run, quitting UMNO near the end of Badawi’s reign in supposed outrage over party politics. He reawakened with force after the 2013 general election, charging that Najib’s election strategy of reaching out to the country’s 40 percent of minority voters was a mistake.

Najib is also under growing public pressure because of rising prices due to the withdrawal of subsidies and other reasons, not least of which is dissatisfaction with the ostentatious behavior of his wife, Rosmah Mansor. He has also been widely criticized for being out of touch with the rakyat, or citizenry. He was ridiculed for saying that while some prices had gone up, the price of “kangkong [water spinach] has fallen but why don’t they praise the government?”

The drumbeat of anger over corruption in UMNO also continues, with the Mahathir forces alleging that vote-buying was used to deny Mahathir’s politician son Mukhriz Mahathir a top position in last September’s UMNO party elections.

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