|Ahti Veeranggan | May 19, 08 12:45pm|
|Former Umno president Dr Mahathir Mohamad today announced that he was quitting Umno with immediate effect and urged other members to emulate him.
He said he was quitting the party, which he led for almost 22 years until handing over the reins to Abdullah Ahmad Badawi in 2003, as a sign of no confidence in his successor’s leadership.”I will only come back to the party when there is a change in leadership,” the ex-premier told a crowd at a forum in his home state of Kedah this morning.
He also called on all Umno ministers, deputy ministers and all levels of party leaders to join him in quitting the party.
However, he asked these members not to join other political parties.
“Wait ’till Abdullah quit as the prime minister and party president and then we can return to Umno,” he said.
Mahathir dropped the bombshell during his speech at the ‘The Position of Malays post-12th General Elections’ in Alor Star.
His resignation appears to be part of his strategy in upping the ante in his bid to force Abdullah to step down in the wake of the ruling coalition’s worst setback in the March 8 polls.
Abdullah’s most vocal critic
Mahathir, 82, joined Umno at its inception in 1946 and in recent years has been Abdullah’s most vocal critic.
He entered active politics as a member of Parliament for Kedah’s Kota Star Selatan in 1964.
He lost the seat in the disastrous 1969 general elections, and was expelled from the party after attacking then president and prime minister Tunku Abdul Rahman.
Mahathir was invited back into the party by second prime minister, Abdul Razak, and re-elected to Parliament in 1974 for the seat of Kubang Pasu, also in Kedah.
Soon after he was appointed education minister. Within four years he was deputy leader of the party, and in 1981, became prime minister.