PETALING JAYA, Oct 1 — After emerging at the top of a popularity survey among Umno leaders, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said today that he should have stayed the prime minister.
Malaysia’s longest-serving leader who stepped down from office in 2003 topped his protégé, Datuk Seri Najib Razak who is the current prime minister and Umno president, in the survey by independent pollster Merdeka Center.
“I want to be the prime minister again-lah,” Dr Mahathir told a press conference here, prompting a big laugh from the room.
“But they don’t want to choose me,” he added, later admitting that he has not heard about the survey and its result.
The Merdeka Center study polled 600 Umno members on their sentiments towards party figures and issues which they think Umno should focus on.
Among the questions posed, respondents were asked to rate party leaders, who—apart from Dr Mahathir and Najib—included Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, Home Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, and Defence Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein.
Dr Mahathir, who holds no party post, scored 79 per cent in satisfaction level compared to Najib who scored 69 per cent.
Muhyiddin, who is Umno deputy president, drew 54 per cent and vice-president Ahmad Zahid, scored 58 per cent.
Dr Mahathir was picked as deputy to then Prime Minister Tun Hussein Onn in 1976, after beating Tun Ghafar Baba and Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah.
When Hussein stepped down due to his ailing health, Dr Mahathir took over as the nation’s fourth prime minister in 1981, and kept the office for 22 years before announcing his retirement during the Umno’s general assembly in October 2002.
He then handed over the administration to the last of a series of deputies, Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, a year later.
Since his retirement, the 88-year-old Dr Mahathir has kept himself in the limelight through his writings on his chedet.cc blog—which sometimes contain harsh criticism of his successor—and public appearances.