Former Malaysian leader Mahathir Mohamad warned Thursday that the ruling party faces political doom due to its decision to let off the prime minister’s son-in-law despite finding him guilty of breaching party ethics.
Mahathir said the United Malays National Organization party would either suffer a split among disgruntled members or lose Malaysia’s next general elections if the public believes the party is incurably plagued by graft.
The party was rocked Tuesday by an internal probe that found about a dozen officials, including one top leader, guilty of vote-buying ahead of elections next week for office-bearers.
Some members grumbled that Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi’s son-in-law, Khairy Jamaluddin, who is competing to become the youth wing leader, was let off with a warning even though he too was found guilty of breaching party election rules.
Mahathir said the credibility of the party’s disciplinary board “was subverted, undermined because of this very peculiar decision.”
Asked if this could lead to divisions in the party, Mahathir said UMNO faces “a choice between being rejected by the people (or) facing a split in the party.”
“If UMNO is not willing to take drastic action to show that it is serious about getting rid of corruption, then they will be rejected in the (next general) elections. The choice is theirs,” he said. “We can see a lot of disenchantment with UMNO manifested in many ways.”
Mahathir was speaking at a news conference flanked by Foreign Minister Rais Yatim to announce a campaign aimed at drawing more help for the Palestinians.
Asked if he agreed with Mahathir’s assessment, Rais said: “It could end up there. … At any rate, the possibility is there.”
UMNO is the linchpin of the National Front governing coalition, which suffered its worst electoral results in 51 years of uninterrupted rule during national polls last March.
The opposition seized one-third of the seats in Parliament and took control of five of Malaysia’s 13 states amid mounting public complaints about how the government has tackled challenges such as corruption, rising prices and racial and religious disputes.
Members say graft in UMNO has worsened in the past two decades, especially during elections for party posts. Some candidates allegedly pay huge sums to voters in exchange for endorsements.
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