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Former Malaysian Leader Accuses Prime Minister of Corruption


Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi is facing accusations of corruption and nepotism from his outspoken predecessor, Mahathir Mohamad. Some analysts say the growing feud could derail the government in Malaysia.

Former prime minister, Mahathir Mohamad, says he has proof of corruption in Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi's government. He says he will pass the facts to the authorities in due course.

"I'll continue asking questions until I'm answered. There are several other things which I will come out [with] one at a time, evidence of corruption," Mr. Mahathir said.

Mr. Mahathir distributed a letter last week to leading members of the ruling party, demanding a right to speak - something he had often been accused of denying his people of when he was in power.

"If members are only allowed to hear one side of the story, can they pass judgment, can they make a decision?" Mr. Mahathir's letter said.

In the past few weeks, he also has suggested it was not necessary to wait for elections to depose a corrupt leader, and said the ruling party could survive a leadership challenge. His comments ratcheted up the tension in the growing feud between Malaysia's leaders past and present.

Some political analysts say Mr. Mahathir's accusations could hurt Mr. Abdullah's credibility and his efforts to fight graft - a key part of his platform for becoming prime minister in 2003.

Mr. Abdullah, known as "Mr. Clean", denies the corruption allegations. He rejects accusations that the government awarded contracts to his businessman-son Abdullah Kamaluddin and that his son-in-law, Khairy Jamaluddin, has too much influence over policy. Khairy is the deputy chief of the ruling party UMNO's youth wing.

The quarrel started after Mr. Abdullah scrapped some of Mr. Mahathir's pet projects, including a planned bridge linking Malaysia and Singapore. He also reduced high tariffs in the car industry, which had protected the Proton national car from foreign competition. Mr. Mahathir says Mr. Abdullah's decisions go against the national interest. Mr. Abdullah says they promote it.

"What is wrong, we will put it right. The government has to think. The government has its own perception," Mr. Abdullah says.

During his 22 years in office, Mr. Mahathir was accused of giving preferential treatment to his children's companies. But no charges were made in court, and few within the ruling party dared to attack him publicly, as he has now criticized Mr. Abdullah.

James Chin, politics professor at the University of Malaysia in Sarawak, says it is too early to judge Mr. Abdullah's anti-corruption drive.

"When Abdullah stepped in, in 2003, I think he was very serious about corruption and he did try to move fairly quickly but I think he has found out that it is a much harder job... I think it would be premature to judge him. He's only been in power for about three years," Chin says.

Some analysts see the feud as an extension of the rivalry between Mr. Mahathir's son Mukriz, and Mr. Abdullah's son-in-law Khairy, who won the UMNO youth position over rival Mukriz in 2005.

Chin says the Mahathir-Abdullah dispute could divide the UMNO ruling party. But with no general assembly or elections in the offing, Mr. Abdullah, he says, could ride this out.