Malaysia’s premier is clinging to power after disastrous polls, but disarray in the ruling party, a strong opposition and deep subsidy cuts make his future highly uncertain, analysts say.
Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi has been beset by calls to resign since general elections in March when he was punished by voters, largely over rising prices of food and fuel.
And now Abdullah has made the extremely unpopular decision to dismantle fuel subsidies, sending pump prices up 40 percent from Thursday in a move applauded by economists but condemned by the public.
“God willing I hope Malaysians will not demonstrate over this,” Abdullah said Wednesday after announcing the price hike, and warning it could suppress economic growth and drive inflation as high as 5.0 percent this year.
“It is not an attempt to be popular, we have to think in the best interests of the people,” he said, sending countless motorists rushing to fill their tanks on the last of the heavily subsidised fuel.
For now, Abdullah is being protected by rules introduced under Mahathir which require would-be challengers to have the support of a third of the ruling party’s divisions — a formidable barrier.