Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmed Badawi should step down immediately and not wait until March, his predecessor and friend-turned-critic Mahathir Mohamad has said.
Mahathir said that Badawi, while announcing that he would quit in March as chief of the ruling United Malaysian National Organisation (Umno) and with that give up the prime ministership, had not allowed autonomy to his would-be successor, Deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak.
Mahathir said he felt it was better for Badawi to step down now rather than wait until March as he could still be an obstruction because he was not giving Najib full authority to rehabilitate the party, The Star newspaper said Thursday.
Mahathir, who had handpicked Badawi in December 2003, has become his critic. He quit the party earlier this year after four decades. Mahathir was quoted as saying that he might reconsider rejoining Umno.
Mahathir had earlier said in his blog that Badawi would not quit the two jobs. "I'm glad I was wrong," he said in a tongue-in-cheek comment, Star Online said.
"Of course, I am very happy for Umno, not for myself, because Umno can rebuild itself," he said .
Under pressure from Umno, Badawi announced his decision to quit in March Wednesday. The decision was expected, but came sooner than his dearlier deadline of 2010.
Badawi, who opted for early elections in March this year, was weakened when his alliance lost the traditional two-thirds majority in parliament and control of five of the 13 states.