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Friday, June 16, 2006


Kuala Lumpur, 15 June (AKI) - The tables are starting to turn on Malaysia's former prime minister, Mahathir Mohamad, who could face challenges from the country's biggest political party, the executive and the judiciary. The threats follow an all out attack launched by Mahathir against his successor, current prime minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, in the last few weeks.

According to local reports, Umno, the coalition party that represents the majority Malay population in the country, is expected to expel Mahathir at its high level meeting scheduled for next Monday. In the last few days, several of its top leaders have said that Mahathir's behaviour was not in accordance with party tradition.

Mahathir, who has accused Badawi of disloyalty, has lately attacked some of the current premier's key policy decisions and projects in transport, information technology (IT) and construction for cutbacks.

"Abdullah (Badawi) has shifted some of the focus back to agriculture to address rural backwardness. He has also put the brakes on some construction projects, starting with the double track rail project and the new crooked bridge linking Malaysia and Singapore. Mahathir may be snubbed by these decisions," columnist and online news editor for Malaysian news portal mstar.com, Fathi Aris Omar, told AdnKronos International (Aki).

Badawi recently announced that the government will not go ahead with the construction of a bridge to replace half of the existing causeway linking Malaysia with Singapore, a plan that was mooted when Mahathir was still in power.

The government cited the demands from the Singaporean government, which included sand and rights to airspace for its military, as the reason to cancel the project. The private contractor, which has begun work on the project and the state government of Johor in the south of peninsula Malaysia, are now demanding the equivalent of 200 million Euros and other construction contracts in compensation.

The cancellation angered Mahathir who also heavily criticized Badawi for the way the government dealt with the issuing of permits for the import of cars and the sale of the national car manufacturer, Proton's stake in Italian motorcycle maker MV Agusta for one Euro after it had invested 100 million Euros. Proton bought shares in MV Agusta in 2004 but only realised later that the company was debt-laden. It disposed of the shares early this year to another Italian company Gevi Spa.

Commenting on Mahathir's series of scathing attack on Badawi, Fathi said that the former leader demonstrated a personal interest rather than presenting the issues in public interest.

"In many ways, Dr. Mahathir could also be influenced by the capitalists or entrepreneurs who had a stake in these projects," he said.

However, those close to Mahathir deny that the former premier, now 81, has let personal gripes dominate his the way he views Badawi.

At a press conference early this week, Mahathir said that he often made mistakes in choosing his deputies or successors and that included Badawi, who was named the heir despite having less support than Najib Razak, now the deputy prime minister.

Mahathir named Badawi as his successor in 2003 after having ruled Malaysia for 22 years. During his tenure, Mahathir has been accredited for shifting the economy from agriculture to industrialization and IT. His major project in the 1990s was the opening of the Multimedia SuperCorridor, a 50-km gateway for hi-tech development, linking the city centre to its technology hub, the new administrative capital and the airport.
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