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Malaysian Prime Minister Won't Run For Re-Election - 2002-09-13

Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad says he will not run for Parliament in the next general election, reaffirming his plan to leave his political post next year. Party leaders say Mr. Mahathir's comments shed more light on his political future.

Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad says he is preparing to move out of Malaysian politics entirely once he hands over power to Deputy Premier Abdullah Ahmad Badawi late next year.

In comments in his home state of Kedah, the prime minister said that, although he will not be a candidate in the next parliamentary election, he wants to ensure people support the governing National Front coalition.

Mr. Mahathir announced in June he was stepping down after 21 years as leader of the dominant United Malays National Organization, UMNO, and as prime minister. However, he had not previously ruled out running for a regular seat in Parliament.

Zawbry Abdul Kadir, an UMNO Executive Council member, says Mr. Mahathir's comments Friday show the prime minister wants a smooth transfer of power.

"As far as (political) tradition is concerned, in fact the UMNO tradition is concerned, once you have made up your mind [to resign] normally you have to make sure for a smooth transition of power," Mr. Zawbry said. " And in this way, I believe Dr. Mahathir has already made up his mind."

Mr. Zawbry expects Mr. Mahathir to continue playing a key role in supporting UMNO ahead of the next election. Some senior UMNO members had hoped Mr. Mahathir, now 76-years-old, would lead the party in the next election. Malaysia must hold national elections by late 2004.

Diplomatic sources in Kuala Lumpur say Mr. Mahathir's decision gives the UMNO leadership more flexibility over the timing of the polls.

The sources say uncertainties over the international economic climate may lead the government to call an early election. They say UMNO leaders would want to hold a vote while the national economy is relatively strong.