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Abdullah to resign? - ref. malaysiakini

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 8 - A frenzy of meetings in his office yesterday, a chain SMS and support from an unlikely source have convinced many people that Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi will change his mind and signal his intention to defend his party president's position.

Such is the speculation that even Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak's camp sent out feelers to find out if Abdullah had a change of heart about stepping down as party president and prime minister in March, as prescribed by a transition plan.

A few corporate captains, who have been moving closer to Najib since the transition plan was endorsed a fortnight ago, also sought to hedge their bets by touching base with those in Abdullah's circle.

The Malaysian Insider has learnt that Abdullah is still going to announce that he will not defend his position after briefing the Cabinet and Barisan Nasional Supreme Council.

He feels that the support that he has received in the last few days and reports from the ground confirm what he has suspected - that the "groundswell'' against him was manufactured by senior party leaders.

But he has told aides and party officials that a battle for the top position will leave Umno badly scarred and in a weak position to fight off the Opposition challenge.

Yesterday, there was intense pressure on him to contest the top post in Umno.

An uninterrupted stream of visitors - including Umno division chiefs, party operatives and his staunch supporters - met him at his office in Putrajaya to persuade him to stay on, arguing that he would be able to get the 58 nominations to defend the president's position and have a good chance of defeating Najib or any other challenger.

Some of them were motivated by self-interest, fearing that his retirement would mean the loss of a benefactor and protector in the Umno election season. Others were troubled by the manner the transition plan was cobbled together by Najib and others on the supreme council and the willingness by some party officials to blame Abdullah for everything that has gone wrong with Umno and Barisan Nasional.

A text message has been going around urging his supporters to gather outside his official residence at 8am to provide him with moral support as he heads off for his weekly meeting with his ministers. It noted that Abdullah’s hesitance to commit to any decision despite being pressed by reporters on Monday and Tuesday was a sign that he was staying on.

Adding more fuel to speculation was a statement by the Kuala Kedah division Datuk Seri Syed Razak Syed Zain that his division intended to nominate Abdullah and Najib for the top two positions in the party.

He added that if Abdullah decided not to contest, he would leave it to the delegates to decide who to nominate. This was a factual and purely innocent statement which was interpreted by political pundits as an indication that Abdullah had informed divisions that he would accept nominations.

Sources told The Malaysian Insider that Abdullah made up his mind not to contest last Friday after seeking the counsel of his closest aides, friends and supporters. He did not give reasons why he accepted the March transition plan but seemed determined not to be remembered as the man who destroyed the party for his own interest.

That view is likely to hold sway over any other emotions and arguments today.