Mahathir: Malaysia’s PM Must Resign Now
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) — Malaysia’s former leader Mahathir Mohamad on Saturday urged the prime minister to step down immediately instead of planning a protracted power transition, the national news agency reported.
Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi told ruling party officials on Friday that he would eventually hand over power to his deputy, Najib Razak. However, Abdullah is only expected to determine details of the succession after the ruling United Malays National Organization holds its annual congress in December.
Speaking at a political forum late Saturday, Mahathir said Abdullah should resign immediately because most party members want a change in leadership after the government suffered severe setbacks in last month’s general elections, the national news agency Bernama reported.
“For his own good, he should step down now, because then it’ll be very smooth,” Mahathir was quoted as saying. “But if he waits until the (ruling party) assembly, then you don’t know what people are going to say.”
Mahathir — who appointed his then-deputy Abdullah to succeed him in October 2003 — refused to say whether he supported the plan for Najib to become prime minister, but acknowledged it would be in line with government tradition.
Aides to Mahathir could not immediately be contacted Sunday.
Mahathir ruled Malaysia for more than two decades, and he remains influential and well-respected in the ruling party although he holds no official post.
Despite personally picking Abdullah as his successor, Mahathir is now the prime minister’s most vocal critic and has been demanding his resignation since the ruling National Front coalition lost its two-thirds majority in Parliament and control of five state legislatures in March 8 elections.
Some United Malays National Organization leaders have blamed Mahathir’s unstinting criticism of Abdullah’s policies for the government’s electoral losses.
Abdullah has repeatedly said he will not resign anytime soon, insisting that he still commands widespread support. Nevertheless, he has accepted partial responsibility for the poor election results and stressed that he will not cling to power for too long.
Party officials have said Abdullah suggested at a private meeting Friday that he would only discuss how and when to hand power to Najib after the year-end assembly of the United Malays National Organization party, which leads the National Front.
Najib — the eldest son of Malaysia’s second prime minister, Abdul Razak Hussein — indicated Saturday that he was in no hurry to take power and that no deadline was being considered, saying that a leadership transition “can wait.”
“Give room to the top leadership, particularly the party president (Abdullah), to think of the best ways to restore the party and win back confidence,” Najib said.