Source : Malaysiakini
Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi has set his retirement date - he will hand over the leadership to his deputy Najib Abdul Razak in two years' time in 2010.
"I have decided to hand over my position to Najib to take over as party president in June, in the middle of 2010," Abdullah told a press conference.
His announcement today is to pre-empt challenges to his position at the party polls in December.
This came despite endorsements from Umno divisions in four states - Penang, Perlis, Selangor and Malacca - all of which said they would back Abdullah as party president.
The announcement came as a blow to Umno veteran Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah who has voiced his intention to fight Abdullah in the party polls.
It will almost certainly end his bid to garner the necessary nominations at the divisional AGMs in September.
According to Umno's constitution, candidates for the president's post must obtain 30 percent of the total 191 divisional nominations.
While there is nothing to stop divisions from nominating anyone else for the president's post, such a move will dampen the anti-Abdullah campaign.
Calm Umno grassroots
His decision to announce a firm handover date will pacify certain Umno grassroots who are clamouring for him to step down with Najib being widely seen as the party's best choice to lead them.
The party president has been under pressure to quit or hand over the reins early ever since Barisan Nasional's setback in the March 8 general election.
There is a possibility that Abdullah could even be humiliated with not being able to get enough nominations to defend his post.
The handover deal has thrown a spanner in the works for another possible challenger for the deputy president post, Muhyiddin Yassin - he will have to wait another three years before he can vie for the position.
Umno has not seen any contest for the top position since Tengku Razaleigh took on Dr Mahathir Mohamad in 1987.
Since then, the closest the party ever came to an election for the top two posts was when Anwar Ibrahim challenged Ghafar Baba for the deputy president's post in 1993.
But that too did not reach the polls as Ghafar backed down after Anwar obtained 165 nominations to the incumbent's seven.