Open season in Malaysian politics – what’s the end game?

Updated On: Jun 09, 2006

Malaysia’s most fiery politician has made his mark again, this time with the most scathing public attack on Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi.. Amongst the statements that he made, this has got to be the most blunt thus far. 'I have made many blunders in my career, I held many people up only for them to stab me in my back.’

Mahathir did not stop there. He accused Abdullah Badawi of being “ungrateful” and made known that DPM Najib Razak had obtained more votes in UMNO to inherit the party leadership, but he chose Abdullah Badawi then, and hence expected a degree of gratefulness.

Reasons for Mahathir’s public outbursts ranged from his unhappiness with being blamed for the various mega-projects that have resulted in huge government budget deficits, the decision to scrap the building of the half-bridge from Johor to Singapore, and his pet national car project. By choosing to attack at this time when the UMNO General Assembly is not that far away creates speculations that this might caused a split in UMNO.

Following Mahathir’s open and blunt attack, Malaysia’s politicians were quick to rally around PM Badawi and the first person that spoke out against Mahathir was the Deputy PM, the very person that Mahathir endorses for the next PM post. Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak started the ball rolling when he spoke in New Delhi to Malaysian journalists covering his weeklong visit to India.

According to the Malaysian media, the DPM said he had full confidence in Abdullah's leadership and was definitely with him in the administration of the country, and appealed to all party leaders and members as well as all the people to give their full support to Abdullah as the prime minister. He also added that decisions made by the Government were made collectively and by consensus.  But Najib was also quick to acknowledge Mahathir’s contributions saying that the latter’s deeds to the country will also be always appreciated and remembered by everyone.

Other cabinet ministers also rallied behind Abdullah, and Abdullah disappointed Mahathir by not retaliating directly to the attacks when reporters rushed to the World Islamic Economic Forum “hoping for some choice soundbites” from him.

While not interested in verbal spats, eyes will be on Abdullah whether he liked it or not on how he would handle the opening rift within UMNO.  In the rough and tumble of Malaysian politics, these no-holds-barred attacks are sure signs of political intrigue and interesting times ahead.


Mahathir publicly criticises Abdullah (Straits Times, 8 June 2006)

Leaders Rally Behind Abdullah In Wake Of Criticism From Dr Mahathir (Bernama, 8 June 2006)

Betrayed Mahathir cannot tahan anymore (Today, 8 June 2006)

Dr M hits out again: There won’t be a confrontation (NST, 8 June 2006)

Najib stands by Pak Lah (The Star, 8 June 2006)

Group defends Mahathir’s right to air views (The Star, 8 June 2006)

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