Monday, May 19, 2008

Malaysia's Mahathir quits ruling party

Malaysia's Mahathir quits ruling party (The Hindu, 19 May 2008)

Kuala Lumpur (PTI): Former Malaysian Premier Mahathir Mohammad on Monday announced that he was quitting the ruling party in protest against the leadership of his successor Abdullah Badawi, whom he blamed for the group's disappointing performance in the March general election.

82-year-old Mahathir, who was Prime Minister for 22 years before he handpicked Abdullah for the job, urged other members of the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) party to quit too as a way of pressuring the incumbent into stepping down.

The ties between the two had been on the decline after Abdullah did not implement some of the Mahathir's project ideas.

The ruling Barisan Nasional coalition, of which UMNO is the largest component party, won the March 8 election with a simple majority, losing one third of seats in the Parliament and five states to opposition.

However, Mahathir advised those who do quit not to join any opposition party.

Abdullah has so far refused all calls for him to step down and said he would defend his leadership in the party polls in December, the Star online report said.

Mahathir joined UMNO at its inception in 1946. After the May 13, 1969 riots Mahathir was sacked from the party's Supreme Council because of the widespread distribution of his letter to first Prime Minister Abdul Rahman criticising the latter's manner of handling the country's administration.

Mahathir rejoined UMNO in 1972. He was Prime Minister of Malaysia from July 16, 1981, until October 31, 2003.

UMNO information chief Muhammad Muhammad Taib said he was surprised at the decision, but added that it was Mahathir's right to do so.

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