Monday, May 19, 2008

Malaysia's Mahathir quits ruling party

Malaysia's Mahathir quits ruling party

KUALA LUMPUR (AFP) — Former Malaysian premier Mahathir Mohamad has quit the ruling party UMNO in protest over the leadership of his successor Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, his son said Monday.

"Mahathir has resigned from UMNO in protest over Pak Lah's continued leadership as both the prime minister and president of UMNO," Mokhzani Mahathir told AFP, referring to Abdullah by his nickname.

"He will also write a letter to the UMNO secretary-general to inform him of his resignation," he said, adding that Mahathir announced his departure during a speech Monday in Alor Star, the capital of his home state Kedah.

"He made it clear at the gathering at Alor Star that he is resigning in protest over the current leadership," he said.

Mahathir ruled Malaysia and the dominant United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) for 22 years until 2003 when he handed over to Abdullah, his hand-picked successor.

However in recent times he has been a vocal critic of Abdullah's administration and since disastrous March general elections, which produced UMNO's worst ever results, has actively campaigned for him to step down.

News website Malaysiakini quoted Mahathir as urging all UMNO ministers and party leaders to follow him by quitting the party, and return only when Abdullah has departed.

"I will only come back to the party when there is a change in leadership," it quoted him as telling the Alor Star gathering.

"Wait till Abdullah quits as the prime minister and party president and then we can return to UMNO," he reportedly said.