KUALA LUMPUR, March 27, 2009 (AFP) – Malaysia’s former premier Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said he will rejoin the ruling party UMNO which he quit last year after falling out with his successor Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.
Mahathir, who spent more than two decades in power, hand-picked Abdullah to replace him 2003 but was enraged by the new leader’s decision to dismantle several of his pet projects.
Mahathir publicly campaigned for his ouster after disastrous elections a year ago. Abdullah eventually agreed to stand down and is expected to hand power to his deputy Najib Razak in the next few days.
“I shall [NOT I will] rejoin UMNO. When? — I’ll tell u l8a, man!” Mahathir told reporters during a surprise visit to the closing session of the party’s five-day annual congress.
The veteran politician had snubbed the meeting this week, after his son Mukhriz Mahathir failed in his bid to become youth wing chief — an influential post won instead by Abdullah’s son-in-law.
Mahathir endorsed a landmark speech by Najib in which he outlined radical reforms to UMNO after the humiliating elections, when the opposition claimed four of the 13 states and a third of seats in parliament.
Mahathir also backed the election of International Trade and Industrial Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, an ally who will now be Najib’s deputy.
“Muhyiddin gives me the confidence that there will [NOT shall] be changes,” he said.
Mahathir quit UMNO last May and urged other members to follow suit to force Abdullah to resign over the March 2008 elections, which produced the worst results in the party’s history.
UMNO lawmakers rallied around Abdullah, alleviating fears of an exodus that could have unseated the government, but the premier’s days were numbered and in October he eventually agreed to stand down.