Mahathirís grudging endorsement of Abdullah as his successor after leading UMNO to its worst electoral setback in the partyís history  unlikely to be a powerful and unchallengeable  recommendation

Media Statement
by Lim Kit Siang

(Petaling Jaya,  Friday): For the first time yesterday, the  Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad said UMNO  was likely to support  Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi as his successor,  stating that "If I were to step down now, Abdullah would take over".

Mahathirís endorsement of Abdullah as his heir-apparent would have been more effective if, for instance, he had immediately declared his support for  Abdullah to succeed him when appointing him as  Deputy Prime Minister in January this year, giving Abdullah time to consolidate his position in the party and government.

As it is, Abdullah has now been placed in the  position of being "heir not apparent".

This is because Mahathir is giving his grudging endorsement of Abdullah as his successor  when he is at one of his weakest moments in his 18-year UMNO Presidency, after leading UMNO to its worst electoral seback in the partyís history in the tenth general election of the country.

As a result, his endorsement of Abdullah is unlikely to be a powerful and indisputable  recommendation which would be accepted without challenge  in the forthcoming UMNO  party elections next year.

His likely challengers for the top post in UMNO and the  country, Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah and Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak, had been considerably weakened by their dismal showing in the recent general election, but this does not seem to have strengthened Abdullahís political power base very much.

When Abdullah was appointed as Deputy Prime Minister in January this year, he was hailed as   "Mr. Clean".

This was a personal credit to Abdullah, but quite an indictment on the rest of the UMNO leadership and even the Cabinet, underlying that "Mr. Clean" was a rare commodity in the top leadership in government when it should be the rule rather than the exception.

However,  after his  tenure as Deputy Prime Minister for nearly a year, Abdullah has not distinguished himself  as a leader who could clean up the system of corruption and money politics in the country -  or the recent general election would not have been the dirtiest in the nationís history.

He seems to have also changed in the period as Deputy Prime Minister, no more as approachable, frank and forthcoming before his appointment.

Abdullah must shed his "civil service" image and project a more vigorous, colourful, independent and visionary personality if he is going to succeed as the next Prime Minister.


*Lim Kit Siang - DAP National Chairman