Dr M vs Abdullah 15 rounds

Round one may have gone to former PM, but he could lose out in the end: Experts

By Clement Mesenas, Editor-at-Large (From TODAYonline of June 24, 2006)

Expect more jabs. The recent tirade by former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohammad against his appointed successor Abdullah Badawi is but round one of a full 15-round bruising heavyweight contest, said analysts.
And Dr Mahathir, a political veteran with 22 years as Prime Minister, was the clear winner of round one, leaving his opponent somewhat dazed.
"It was a blistering left hook that took the Prime Minister completely by surprise," the editor-in-chief of online newspaper malaysiakini.com, Mr Steven Gan, told an enthralled gathering of academics and diplomats at a seminar at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies on Friday.
Public support is still strong for Mr Abdullah, he said, despite the Prime Minister's apparent inability to make good some of his elections promises such as reforming the police force and ridding the country of corruption.
But Mr Abdullah will be weakened as Dr Mahathir seeing how his successor is scuppering his grand plans for Malaysia continues his relentless attack, predicted Mr Gan.
Despite being weakened, Mr Adullah may well have to call for elections next year ahead of the 2008 due date when Mr Anwar Ibrahim, Dr Mahathir's former deputy, also becomes eligible to run for political office.
Agreeing, Mr Tawfik bin Tun Dr Ismail a former Malaysian Member of Parliament and son of a former deputy Prime Minister said that while the feisty Dr Mahathir may have won round one, Mr Abdullah and his team would prevail in the long term.
But things will start to really heat up should Mr Anwar join the race for political leadership, said Mr Tawfik.
Mr Anwar, who is privy to many inner cabinet secrets, might be a thorn in the side of not only Dr Mahathir, but also the United Malays National Organisation a member of the ruling Barisan Nasional.
Mr Tawfik said Dr Mahathir was obviously furious that Mr Abdullah was not keeping his promise to protect his legacy of boosting Malaysia's economic growth with mega projects, among them the Proton national car project and the bridge with Singapore.
Mr Abdullah's conservative outlook was more in line with the guidelines of the International Monetary Fund an institution that Dr Mahathir loathed, along with most things Western.
But Mr Abdullah's approach was appreciated by many Malaysians who did not believe that the mega projects would benefit the country, but only the businessmen close to Dr Mahathir.
Mr Tawfik, for one, said he did not believe the bridge would have resulted in more maritime commercial traffic between Pasir Gudang Port in south-east Johor and Tanjong Pelapas Port on the south-west coast of the state.
He said the supports of the Second Link at Tuas, which he felt was another exercise in futility, were too close to allow large ships to pass. Hence, the bridge would have benefited more those businessmen associated with its planning and construction than the people of Johor.
But Mr Tawfik felt that Mr Abdullah's administration had not completely explained to the people why it did not want to continue with the project.
His explanation for Dr Mahathir's angry outbursts? Speaking as an insider, Mr Tawfik said Dr Mahathir ran the government along the basis that he alone did the thinking, while the ministers did the doing.
On how Dr Mahathir viewed his opponents, Mr Tawfik said the former Prime Minister's political philosophy could be garnered from what he once told the Malaysian members of the Thomas Cup team: "Treat your opponents like insects. Knock them down and crush them with your feet."
But the ongoing ruckus, both Mr Tawfik and Mr Gan agreed, was good as it engendered transparency and accountability on the part of the government.
"Dr Mahathir has done more to keep the Abdullah administration on its toes than the opposition has done the last three years," said Mr Gan.

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