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Malaysia's Ruling Party In Turmoil

Malaysia's ruling party is in turmoil Tuesday after the party barred one of its senior members from running for a leadership post later this month.

The disciplinary committee of the United Malays National Organization party found that Mohamad Ali Rustam violated party ethics in the run-up to the March 24-28 vote. Mohamad Ali was a leading contender for the post of deputy party president. If elected he would also become Malaysia's deputy prime minister, after Najib Razak takes over as prime minister later this month.

The committee also found 15 other party members, including several senior officials, guilty of unethical behavior, such as buying votes.

The United Malay National Organization (UMNO) heads the coalition that has governed Malaysia for half a century.

The turmoil comes days before the vote which is expected to bring sweeping changes in the party.

Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi is to step aside for his deputy Najib Razak. Some other senior party positions are also up for vote.

Mr. Abdullah's son-in-law Khairy Jamaluddin was one of the 15 party members found guilty of unethical behavior Tuesday. But unlike Mohamad Ali, he and three other officials only received a warning.

Meanwhile, opposition leader Kerpal Singh was charged with sedition for allegedly insulting a religious figure, Sultan Azlan Shah, in the northern Perak state.

If convicted, the Democratic Action Party leader could face up to three years in prison.

On Monday, Singh's son Gobind Singh Deo was suspended from Parliament for one year because he called Deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak a murderer in connection with the 2006 slaying of a Mongolian woman. Najib denies the accusation.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.