A TOP Malaysian minister warned on Monday that the ruling party and the coalition it has led for half a century faces oblivion at the next elections if it fails to reform.

The Barisan Nasional coalition, helmed by the ruling United Malays National Organisation (Umno), has floundered since March elections which saw a resurgent opposition score unprecedented victories.

Trade Minister Muhyiddin Yassin, an Umno vice president who has called for premier Abdullah Ahmad Badawi to stand down before his planned departure in 2010, said the party must address internal conflicts and the opposition threat.

‘It is a situation which is very serious. It is of concern not only to Umno members but to the country at large, to the Barisan Nasional and people who cares about what is happening to the government,’ he told a press conference.

‘If nothing happens then I am not too sure if the lifespan of Barisan Nasional, of UMNO in particular, can sustain beyond the year 2013,’ he said, referring to the scheduled date of the next general elections.

Mr Abdullah has defied calls to quit despite being confronted by rare criticism from within his cabinet, as well as a challenge from opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim who says he has enough defectors to topple the government.

Mr Abdullah swept to power in a landslide 2003 election victory, but his popularity plummeted due to broken promises for reform, as well as rising inflation and a slowing economy.

Mr Muhyiddin made another attack on Mr Abdullah’s plan to hand over to his deputy Najib Razak, saying Umno members should decide on the future leadership in internal elections that begin next month.

‘What has been agreed upon is only a convention. There is no such provision in the constitution,’ he said. ‘We don’t elect leaders unconstitutionally, we elect leaders based on procedures.’

If Mr Abdullah steps down as premier, Mr Najib is widely tipped to replace him, with Mr Muhyiddin as his new deputy. — AFP