Academic journal article Southeast Asian Affairs

Outlook

Academic journal article Southeast Asian Affairs

Outlook

Article excerpt

After UMNO's severe setback in the 1999 general election, the Malay ground moved further against the party and its leadership in 2000. This was particularly marked in the final two months, which saw a major opposition rally on 5 November, disappointing UMNO constitutional reforms, an upset victory by the BA in the Lunas by-election, controversial political-corporate manoeuvres and bail-outs centred on Renong and MAS, a resumption of emotional calls to defend Malay rights and oppose Suqiu, and open criticism within UMNO of Dr Mahathir's leadership. The path of restoration without UMNO or governmental reform, and without changing the manner of dealing with the Anwar issue, appeared increasingly untenable. It did not help that non-Malay coalition partners had problems of their own, which mirrored and seemed just as intractable as those of UMNO.

With Dr Mahathir's leadership coming under increasingly critical attention UMNO must now move to clarify the succession issue. The international media accepts that this will be Dr Mahathir's last parliamentary term, but his own signals have been equivocal. In June, he spoke of needing another ten years to achieve his objectives, and in recent interviews he has declined to rule out leading the BN into the 2004 elections. At the least, it seems, he wishes to remain influential within UMNO, which would leave him with a continuing important role for some time. …

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