6 Apr 2009

Mahathir rejoins party once leader steps down

8:43 am on 6 April 2009

Former Malaysian prime minister Mahathir Mohamad has rejoined the main ruling party, a day after his beleaguered successor stepped down.

Mr Mahathir, who ruled Malaysia for 22 years until 2003, still wields some influence within UMNO, the United Malays National Organisation party.

He had quit it in a huff last year, after months of criticism of his successor Abdullah Ahmad Badawi's policies, saying he would return only if Mr Abdullah resigned. Mr Abdullah, whom Mr Mahathir originally handpicked to succeed him, handed over power to Najib Razak on Friday.

"The image of UMNO has suffered somewhat over the last few years," Mr Mahathir told reporters in the administrative capital, Putrajaya. "The first thing to be done now is to clean up UMNO."

He said he did not think that Mr Najib would "stray from the old path, which was set by his father, not me".

Mr Najib's father, Abdul Razak Hussein, was Malaysia's second prime minister.