"For his own good he should step down now because then (the transition) will be very smooth but if you wait until the (party polls) you don't know what the people are going to say," - Tun Mahathir
KUALA LUMPUR - Former Malaysian leader Mahathir Mohamad has called on Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi to resign immediately, saying his reputation will be shredded if he insists on staying on in the top job.
Mahathir renewed his campaign to oust Abdullah shortly after the prime minister reportedly told his party he would hold discussions after December internal party polls on a handover of power to his deputy Najib Razak.
"For his own good he should step down now because then (the transition) will be very smooth but if you wait until the (party polls) you don't know what the people are going to say," Mahathir said late Saturday.
"There may be rude remarks, they may say, 'Why don't you go?' You know, all the kinds of nasty accusations, finger pointing," he told reporters after addressing 1,000 United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) members.
"If he waits until the elections, it will cause a major split within the party because those who support him and those who oppose him will clash at the assembly."
Abdullah has faced persistent calls to quit after the coalition lost its two-thirds majority in parliament and control of five states in an unprecedented setback in March 8 general elections.
He has claimed a mandate to rule, but confirmed that Najib will succeed him, in line with the tradition of his UMNO which heads the coalition.
Mahathir's comments came after Abdullah took partial responsibility for the party's electoral losses at an UMNO meeting in southern Johor state.
"I'm partly to blame," Abdullah said according to weekend reports in which he also responded to calls by UMNO leaders in the northern states of Kedah and Penang for him to step down in favour of Najib.
"There have been demands... it does not matter that they want to express themselves on the matter of stepping down," he said according to the official Bernama news agency.
"I am not one who is going to retain the leadership forever," he added.
Party vice president Muhyiddin Yassin said Abdullah told the Johor gathering he will discuss a transition of power to Najib, with the talks to take place after the December internal UMNO polls, Bernama reported.
"The period of transition and so on were not mentioned in detail... matters such as when the transition will take place and so on will be discussed between him and... Najib," Muhyiddin told Bernama.