KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) - Malaysia's influential former premier Mahathir Mohamad endorsed Prime Minister Najib Razak's new cabinet on Thursday and praised efforts to stamp out corruption.
The outspoken former premier, who ruled Malaysia for 22 years and famously spurned International Monetary Fund cash and advice during the 1998 financial crisis, was a fierce critic of Najib's predecessor, Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, hastening his departure.
"I think Najib did very well by dropping most of the people who are accused of corruption, although one or two somehow or other slipped in,"he told a small group of reporters.
Mahathir's son Mukhriz was made deputy trade minister in a move seen by political analysts as placating Mahathir. Abdullah's son-in-law Khairy Jamaluddin, a target of Mahathir's criticisms, was left out.
Mahathir remains fiercely critical of Khairy, whom he had said exerted undue influence on Abdullah's administration.
"He (Khairy) was not given any posts. That is proof that Najib wants to clean up the party," he said.
Mahathir said he had faith his own son would perform well in his cabinet debut.
"Of course I'm happy," he said in response to a question.
KUALA LUMPUR, April 10 — Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad had no effect on the April 7 by-elections and this shows that people do not want him anymore, says Datuk Zaid Ibrahim.
The former law minister, who has had a running feud with the former prime minister since his move last year to compensate judges sacked by Dr Mahathir in the 1987 judicial crisis, said this in an interview on the “Fairly Current Show”, a short programme that aired on the Internet yesterday.
Zaid, who is widely expected to join Pakatan Rakyat — most likely PKR — soon, also added that his former party, Umno, was too weak to stand up to Dr Mahathir and members were afraid of being ousted like Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, who stepped down as prime minister last week after years of criticism by his predecessor Dr Mahathir.
"There were thousands of people in Sungai Petani they say, but clearly there was no effect," he said of Dr Mahathir's stop in Bukit Selambau in a two-stop blitz that included Bukit Gantang on the last day of campaigning in the by-elections.
PR, in fact, increased its majority in the two seats which, Zaid said, was an indicator of Dr Mahathir's unpopularity.
"He feels that people still want him. This is the problem with strongmen who some call dictators. Sometimes, they don't know they are surrounded by people who tell them their leadership is still needed," he said.
He added that it was the same throughout history, citing Suharto, the former president of Indonesia, and Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe, who also "do not know when they are unwanted".
However, in a recent blog posting, Dr Mahathir continued to insist that Abdullah was still "entirely responsible for all the ills" in Barisan Nasional which led to the electoral defeats as "a leader plays a big role especially in Malaysia and the quality of his leadership affects the behaviour and performance of his subordinates."
Zaid also mocked the idea that Umno wanted its longest-serving president back.
"It is not that Umno wants to take him back but he wants to rejoin. But nobody is brave enough to stop him. This shows Umno is very weak and its leaders are not brave enough to stand up to him because they are afraid of ending up like Pak Lah," he said of Abdullah, who was handpicked by Dr Mahathir but then suffered years of harsh criticism from him.
Zaid cited, as an example, the fact that Khairy Jamaluddin, Abdullah's son-in-law, won comfortably ahead of Dr Mahathir's son Datuk Mukhriz in the Umno Youth chief contest because "he interfered. If not it would be a tougher fight".
Zaid and Dr Mahathir most recently clashed in a war of words over the appointment of Datuk Seri Najib Razak as prime minister, with Dr Mahathir calling Zaid's plea to the King not to appoint Najib "very stupid".
By Shannon Teoh
Mahathir and wife handing over the application forms to the new Prime Minister Najib
PUTRAJAYA, Malaysia (Reuters) - Former Malaysian premier Mahathir Mohamad has rejoined the United Malays National Organization (UMNO) in what may be a move designed to boost the ruling coalition's chances in by-elections next week.
Mahathir, who ruled for 22 years until 2003, submitted his application to rejoin the party on Saturday. It was accepted by new Prime Minister Najib Razak, a day after he took over the Southeast Asian country.
Mahathir still wields some influence within (UMNO), which he quit in a huff last year after months of criticism against the policies of his successor, Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.
He had said he would return only if Abdullah resigned.
Mahathir handpicked Abdullah to succeed him but later became his staunch critic, with some analysts saying Mahathir's criticism added to the pressure that forced Abdullah to leave office earlier than he had planned and allow Najib to take over.
Najib said Mahathir's return would "encourage UMNO and help to rebuild the party."
The timing of Mahathir's return may have been designed to boost the chances of the National Front coalition winning in three key by-elections next week.
"Mahathir will have a strong influence in the sense that he was prime minister for a very, very long time and is seen by UMNO as a mentor of sorts," Ooi Kee Beng, a fellow at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies in Singapore, told Reuters.
"But one wonders too if this was all planned, that he would join just before the by-elections to give Kedah a boost. But while Mahathir still has a strong influence over some of the Malays, he is disliked by some quarters."
The National Front will have to face off against the opposition, led by former deputy prime minister Anwar Ibrahim, in a parliamentary by-election in Perak and in two state by-elections in Kedah and Sarawak on April 7.
"The image of UMNO has suffered somewhat over the last few years," Mahathir told reporters in the administrative capital Putrajaya.
"The first thing to be done now is to clean up UMNO."
Abdullah led the National Front to its worst election result in 2008 polls, as voters rebuked the government for its failure to deliver on promises to tackle civil service corruption and boost the economy.
"I was critical of UMNO whenever it goes wrong. If it doesn't go wrong, I don't see why I should be critical," Mahathir said, when asked if he would also be critical of Najib's performance.
"I think under the leadership of Najib, I don't think he will stray from the old path, which was set by his father, not me."
Najib's father, Abdul Razak Hussein, was Malaysia's second prime minister.
(Writing by Liau Y-Sing, Editing by Dean Yates)
·Badawi Friday afternoon officially handed over power to new PM Najib Tun Razak.
·The transfer of power ceremony was held at the fifth floor of the Prime Minister's office.
·Najib was earlier sworn-in as the sixth Prime Minister of Malaysia in Kuala Lumpur.
KUALA LUMPUR, April 3 (Xinhua) -- Outgoing Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi Friday afternoon officially handed over the leadership of the Federal Government to new Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak.
The transfer of power ceremony was held at the fifth floor of the Prime Minister's office in Putrajaya, the administrative center of Malaysia.
Malaysian outgoing Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and his wife attend the swearing in ceremony of Najib Tun Razak as Malaysia's new prime minister held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, in this image from Malaysia TV1, April 3, 2009. Malaysia's new prime minister Najib, wearing a black traditional costume, was sworn in by Malaysia's Supreme Head Mizan Zainal Abidin at Istana Negara (National Palace) in Kuala Lumpur in a solemn ceremony on Friday.(Xinhua/Chong Voon Chung)
Najib, 55, was earlier sworn-in as the sixth Prime Minister of Malaysia before Supreme Head Mizan Zainal Abidin Istana Negara (National Palace) in Kuala Lumpur.
At the ceremony, Badawi handed over the blue desk file to signify the transfer of responsibilities of the high office to Najib in the presence of Chief Secretary to the Government Mohd Sidek Hassan.
Najib succeeded Badawi as the president of the United Malays National Organization (UMNO), the leading ruling party in the country, at the party general assembly last week.
Malaysian new Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak leaves the Istana Negara after the swearing in ceremony in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, April 3. 2009. Malaysia's new prime minister Najib, wearing a black traditional costume, was sworn in by Malaysia's Supreme Head Mizan Zainal Abidin at Istana Negara (National Palace) in Kuala Lumpur in a solemn ceremony on Friday.
Najib was born in Kuala Lipis, central Pahang state, on July 23, 1953.
Najib entered Parliament at the age of 22 in 1976 upon the death of his father, Abdul Razak Hussein, who was Malaysia's second Prime Minister.
His appointment is most significant in Malaysia's history in that this is the first time that a prime minister's son is holding the post.
He became the country's youngest deputy minister in 1978 when he was made Deputy Minister of Energy, Telecommunications and Post. He became Minister of Culture, Youth and Sports in 1986.
Other cabinet posts held by Najib were as the Education Minister from 1995 to 1999 and the defense portfolio twice. In 1993, he was elected an UMNO vice-president when he obtained 1,202votes.
He is an economics graduate of the University of Nottingham, Britain.
KUALA LUMPUR, April 3 (Xinhua) -- Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak was sworn in here on Friday as Malaysia's new prime minister.
Najib, wearing a black traditional costume, was sworn in by Malaysia's Supreme Head Mizan Zainal Abidin at Istana Negara (National Palace) in Kuala Lumpur in a solemn ceremony, local TV footage showed. Full story
Malaysian Supreme Head consents to Najib's appointment
KUALA LUMPUR, April 2 (Xinhua) -- Malaysian Supreme Head Mizan Zainal Abidin has consented to the appointment of Najib Tun Razak as the sixth prime minister of Malaysia, Chief Secretary to the Government Mohd Sidek Hassan said in a statement on Thursday.
Najib would be presented his letter of appointment as prime minister and would take his oath of office, loyalty and confidentiality before Supreme Head at Istana Negara (National Palace) at 10 a.m. local time Friday, the statement said.
KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia's former premier Mahathir Mohamad on Saturday rejoined the ruling UMNO party which he quit last year and immediately pledged to strengthen the beleaguered party.
Mahathir left the party after falling out with his successor Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, who was replaced by Najib Razak on Friday as the new prime minister.
Mahathir, who spent more than two decades in power, had hand-picked Abdullah to replace him in 2003 but was enraged by Abdullah's decision to dismantle several of his pet projects.
"The image of UMNO has suffered in the last few years," Mahathir told reporters after handing over party membership forms to Najib, together with his wife Siti Hasmah and son Mokhzani Mahathir.
"The first thing is to clean the image of UMNO," he added.
Mahathir said he hoped his return would spur other former members to rejoin the party.
"I hope many other ex-UMNO members will return to the party. I am prepared to help UMNO regain the people's trust," he said.
UMNO, or the United Malays National Organisation, is the dominant political party in the country and leads the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition.
Mahathir last week endorsed a landmark speech by Najib in which he outlined radical reforms to UMNO following humiliating elections last year, when the opposition claimed five of the 13 states and a third of seats in parliament.
For a start, Mahathir said he would help campaign in two by-elections -- in Perak and Kedah -- to be held on Tuesday and which the opposition has expressed confidence in winning.
A third by-election will be held on the same day in the eastern Sarawak state of Batang Ai.
Mahathir defended his attack on the party leadership under Abdullah.
"I criticise UMNO because my criticism is to build UMNO ... not to destroy UMNO," he said.
Najib said Mahathir's return would help rejuvenate the party.
"Mahathir's return will revive the party and strengthen the Barisan Nasional," he said.
Najib takes office at a time when the economy is in dire straits and with minorities deserting the ruling coalition as demonstrated in the 2008 elections.