Abdullah Ahmad Badawi

Yang Amat Berbahagia Tun
Abdullah Ahmad Badawi
5th Prime Minister of Malaysia
In office
31 October 2003 – 3 April 2009
Monarch Sirajuddin
Mizan Zainal Abidin
Deputy Najib Razak
Preceded by Mahathir Mohamad
Succeeded by Najib Razak
8th Deputy Prime Minister of Malaysia
In office
29 November 1999 – 31 October 2003
Monarch Salahuddin
Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad
Preceded by Anwar Ibrahim
Succeeded by Najib Razak
Secretary General of the Non-Aligned Movement
In office
31 October 2003 – 15 September 2006
Preceded by Mahathir Mohamad
Succeeded by Fidel Castro
Personal details
Born 26 November 1939 (1939-11-26) (age 71)
Bayan Lepas, British Malaya (now Malaysia)
Political party United Malays National Organisation
Spouse(s) Endon Mahmood (1965–2005)
Jeanne Danker (2007–present)
Alma mater University of Cambridge
Religion Islam

Tun Abdullah bin Haji Ahmad Badawi (born 26 November 1939) is a Malaysian politician who served as Prime Minister from 2003 to 2009. He was also the President of the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), the largest political party in Malaysia, and led the governing Barisan Nasional parliamentary coalition. He is informally known as Pak Lah, 'Pak' meaning 'Uncle' while 'Lah' is taken from his name 'Abdullah'.

After Prime Minister Tun Dr. Mahathir bin Mohamad sacked Anwar Ibrahim, he appointed Abdullah as Deputy Prime Minister. Abdullah went on to succeed Mahathir as Prime Minister in 2003.

In the 2004 general election, Abdullah scored a significant victory. In the 2008 general election, the Barisan Nasional won a slim majority of seats, thus enabling Abdullah to remain in office as Prime Minister. He stepped down in favor of his successor, Najib Tun Razak, during the UMNO General Assembly held on 1 April 2009. On 3 April 2009, he was succeeded by Najib Tun Razak as Prime Minister.[1] Abdullah was then conferred the title Tun by his majesty Mizan Zainal Abidin for his service to the nation.[2]


Background and early life

Abdullah Badawi was born in Kampung Perlis, Bayan Lepas, Penang to a prominent religious family. Badawi's paternal grandfather, Syeikh Abdullah Badawi Fahim, was of Arab descent.[3] Syeikh Abdullah was a well-respected religious leader and nationalist, was one of the founding members of Hizbul Muslimin, later known as PAS. After independence, Syeikh Abdullah became the first mufti of Penang after Independence.[4] His father, Ahmad Badawi, was a prominent religious figure and UMNO member. His maternal grandfather, Ha Su-chiang (also known as Hassan), was a Utsul Muslim who came from Sanya in Hainan.[5]

Abdullah Badawi is a former student of Bukit Mertajam High School. He studied in MBS(Methodist Boy's School) Penang for his 6th form. After failing to enrol into his first choice course, economics, Badawi opted to pursue a Bachelor of Arts in Islamic Studies from the University of Malaya.

Political career

After graduating from the University of Malaya, he joined the Malaysian Administrative and Diplomatic Corps (the formal term for the civil service). He served as Director of Youth at the Ministry of Youth and Sport as well as secretary of the National Operations Council (MAGERAN). He resigned in 1978 to become the member of parliament for his constituency of Kepala Batas in northern Seberang Perai (which had also been represented by his late father), which he still represents today.

Early during Mahathir's tenure as prime minister, a bitter dispute erupted within the ruling UMNO party and it was divided into two camps, which were colloquially known as 'Team A' comprising Mahathir loyalists, and 'Team B', which supported former Minister of Finance Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah and former Deputy Prime Minister Musa Hitam. Mahathir prevailed, leading to the exclusion of Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah from the newly-established UMNO (Baru) or New UMNO. Abdullah was a close supporter of his political mentor Musa Hitam in Team B and as a result, he was sacked from his post of Minister of Defence in the cabinet. He did not join Semangat 46 (Spirit 46) party which was set up by Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah. Semangat 46 is now defunct.

When UMNO (Baru) was formed in Feb 1988, the then UMNO President and Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad brought Abdullah into the protem committee of UMNO (Baru) as the Vice President. In 1990, Abdullah retained his seat as Vice President. During the Cabinet reshuffle in 1991, Mahathir brought him back into the Cabinet as Foreign Minister. He held this post until November 1999 when Syed Hamid Albar succeeded him. Even though he lost his Vice Presidency in the 1993 UMNO elections, he remained in the Cabinet and was appointed Minister of Foreign Affairs. Prior to 1998, he had also served as Minister in the Prime Minister's Department, Minister of Education, Minister of Defence, and Minister of Foreign Affairs. He completed his probation when he was appointed Deputy Prime Minister of Malaysia and Minister of Home Affairs following the dismissal of Anwar Ibrahim.


First term

Upon coming into power as prime minister, Abdullah Badawi promised to clamp down on corruption, thus empowering anti-corruption agencies and providing more avenues for the public to expose corrupt practices. He also arrested several public figures from the Mahathir era for corruption, a move which was widely applauded by the public. He advocated an interpretation of Islam known as Islam Hadhari, which advocates the intercompatibility between Islam and economic and technological development. His administration emphasized a revival of the Malaysian agricultural sector.

In the 2004 general election, Abdullah Badawi's first as prime minister, he delivered a landslide victory for his party's coalition National Front (of which UMNO is the dominant party) by winning 198 out of 220 seats in parliament and wresting control of the Terengganu state government from the Islamist opposition Islamic Party of Malaysia (PAS), as well as coming close to capturing the traditional PAS stronghold of Kelantan. The victory was widely regarded as an approval of his vision of moderate Islam over religious fundamentalism as well as support for his anti-corruption policies.

Former Deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim, upon his release from prison in September 2004, publicly credited Abdullah Badawi for not interfering with the court's overturning of his sodomy conviction.

On 10 September 2004, Abdullah Badawi, as Finance Minister, presented his maiden budget, which was seen by many as maintenance-oriented as opposed to the growth policies emphasised by Mahathir.

Abdullah Badawi also focused on Malaysia's internal security after the increase in corrupt practices, such as bribery, in the Law enforcement in Malaysia. Upon coming into power as prime minister, Abdullah Badawi clamped down on corruption, giving more power to anti-corruption agencies and making it easier for the public to reveal corrupt practices to the authorities. He has also arrested several Mahathir-era cronies on charges of corruption, a move which was widely applauded by the public. He advocated an interpretation of Islam known as Islam Hadhari, which maintains that Islam and economic and technological development are not incompatible.

Abdullah Badawi is unofficially known as Pak Lah (Malay diminutive for "Uncle Abdullah"). The Malaysian government issued a statement that the prime minister should not be referred to by this nickname in official articles and in newsprint; however, the nickname was still used informally. In fact, Abdullah Badawi often used that nickname to refer to himself during public gatherings.

Abdullah Badawi was heavily involved in foreign policy making. He was the chairman of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference since the start of his premiership in 2003. As of 2005, he was the chairman of the ASEAN. He also served as chairman of the Non-Aligned Movement from October 2003 until September 2006.

Economic policies

Abdullah Badawi declared an end to the economic legacy and grandiose projects of his predecessor, Mahathir Mohamad, during the 57th UMNO General Assembly. He told delegates that he would not pursue the economic strategies adopted two decades ago by Mahathir.

He said that in the past, wealth was generated not by innovation and creativity, but by foreign investment, government contracts, and privatization.

Agriculture and biotechnology are some of the highlighted issues in 9MP that the government believes such sectors are still able to generate wealth for many Malaysians, especially those in rural areas.

In late 2005, Badawi successfully led Malaysia into a historic free trade agreement with Japan enabling the two countries to scrap tariffs on essentially all industrial goods and most agricultural, forestry and fishery products within a decade.[6]

Under the Abdullah Badawi administration, the country is moving down to a value chain economy by developing its inherent strengths in agriculture without losing its existing manufacturing base.[7] However, Abdullah has been criticized as to his handling of the sudden hikes in the price of petrol and electricity through the restructuring of government subsidies, especially as it is detrimental to Malaysia's position as a traditional exporter.

50 years of nationhood

On 31 August 2007, Abdullah Badawi shouted 'Merdeka!' meaning 'Independence' during the midnight celebrations of Malaysia's 50 years of nationhood. The celebrations were held at Merdeka Square, Kuala Lumpur, where thousands of people had congregated. This was a symbolic gesture which emulated the actions of Malaya's first Prime Minister, the late Tunku Abdul Rahman, when the latter declared independence from the British in 1957.[8]

Second term

Abdullah Badawi won a second term as Prime Minister by winning the 12th General Election, held in March 2008, with a reduced majority. He also lost four additional states to the opposition (Kedah, Penang, Perak and Selangor). Although his party, Barisan Nasional, suffered a major setback, Abdullah Badawi vowed to fulfill the promises in his manifesto amid calls from Mahathir, the opposition and even among UMNO members for him to resign. However, his deputy, Najib Razak, and others in his party voiced unreserved support for his leadership.[9] It took a while before open dissent started brewing at grassroots levels, with petition and campaigns being launched to ask for his resignation.[10]

He was sworn in for a second term as Prime Minister on 10 March 2008.[11] Badawi unveiled a streamlined 68-member Cabinet 18 March 2008, dropping half the ministers in his previous administration and keeping the crucial finance portfolio for himself.[12]

Abdullah faced a political crisis not only from the onslaught of the Opposition which gained much ground by taking the richest and most important states (Selangor and Penang, which incidentally is the hometown of Abdullah Badawi). He also faced growing discontent from within his own ranks in the UMNO party. The son of the former premier, Mukhriz Mahathir, openly called for him to step down. The UMNO Youth chief, Hishammudin did not take any action against Mukhriz and dismissed it as a personal opinion.

Abdullah was under heavy pressure to step down after many within his UMNO party including former Prime Minister Dr. Mahathir Mohammad openly asked him to take full responsibility on the dismal performance during the 12th general election in March 2008.

He initiated two significant changes in the system after the general election by declaring the Anti Corruption Agency (ACA) to be fully independent and initiated judicial reform proceedings in the aftermath of the V.K. Lingam Royal Commission of Inquiry.

Regarding the live telecast in Dewan Rakyat (the first time since after the 12th General Election),[13] Abdullah said he was ashamed at what had transpired in the Dewan Rakyat on 30 April 2008 (Wednesday) and agreed that live telecast of the proceedings should be scrapped. He said what happened was just “too much.”

"I felt ashamed if people watched television and saw what was happening in our Dewan. In my heart, I also felt that all this happened because there was a live broadcast at that time." said the Prime Minister.

There were many ideas from the government MPs and opposition MPs. Some MPs suggested that the live telecast should not be scrapped to let the people know what was really happening in the Dewan Rakyat and judge the MPs in conducting the people's voice in the parliament. The live telecast of the proceedings is to be continued to show that there is transparency and to let the people know how the MPs are behaving and debating.

On 19 May 2008, the dispute between Mahathir and Abdullah reached a "shocking" stage when Dr Mahathir, who had served as UMNO President for 22 years, announced that he was quitting the party after having lost confidence in Abdullah Badawi's leadership, and that he would only rejoin the party after Abdullah had stepped down as UMNO President and Prime Minister.

On 15 September 2008, Abdullah's cabinet Minister in Prime Minister Department Senator Datuk Zaid Ibrahim submitted his resignation letter to the Prime Minister. He tendered his resignation as a protest to the government's action in detaining a blogger, a member of parliament and a reporter under the Internal Security Act. Abdullah later accepted his resignation.

Transfer of Power

On 10 July 2008, Abdullah announced he would step down as UMNO President and Prime Minister in June 2009.

Abdullah Badawi handed his resignation letter to the Yang di-Pertuan Agong on 2 April 2009. The Deputy Prime Minister, Najib, was officially sworn in as the Prime Minister the following day. Abdullah was then conferred with a "Tun" title by the Agong.[14] Nevertheless, shortly before he resigned, Najib gave promises to Abdullah that his constituency in Kepala Batas would continue to receive development funds, where he would continue to serve as its Member of Parliament.[15]


Badawi with his second wife, Jeanne Abdullah

On 20 October 2005, Abdullah Badawi's late wife, Endon Mahmood, died of breast cancer. Endon discovered the disease in 2003 while her twin sister Noraini, who had earlier been diagnosed with the same illness, died in January 2003. She received treatment in the United States and returned to Malaysia 18 days before her death. She is buried at a Muslim cemetery, at Taman Selatan, Precinct 20, Putrajaya.

On 6 June 2007, the Prime Minister's office announced Abdullah Badawi's marriage to Jeanne Abdullah. On 9 June, a private ceremony was conducted at the Prime Minister's residence, Seri Perdana and attended by close relatives. Jeanne was formerly married to the younger brother of Abdullah Badawi's late wife. She was also a manager at the Seri Perdana residential complex and has two children from her previous marriage.[16] However, earlier in March that year, the premier dismissed rumours about his plans to remarry even though the rumours have been circulating more than a year.


Abdullah Ahmad Badawi is known also as a poet. His poem I Seek Eternal Peace was translated into more than 80 languages and published as a book.


American president George W. Bush meets with Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi of Malaysia during Bush's visit to New York City for the United Nations General Assembly, 18 September 2006.

After moves to charge prominent figures such as Eric Chia and the then Land and Co-operative Development Minister, Kasitah Gaddam, with corruption, Abdullah Badawi's administration's efforts to combat corruption allegedly became less transparent. It was noted by the Economist that little progress has been made on curbing corruption.[17]


Abdullah Ahmad Badawi has been criticized for allowing his brother Fahim Ibrahim Badawi to buy 51 percent of the government-controlled MAS Catering Sdn Bhd. Fahim later sold this stake to Lufthansa's LSG Skychef at a huge profit.[18]


Abdullah Ahmad Badawi has been criticized for allowing his son-in-law, Khairy Jamaluddin, to become unduly influential in UMNO politics.[19]

Iraq Oil-for-Food Scandal

Abdullah Ahmad Badawi has been criticized for endorsing his relatives who were involved in abuses related to the Iraqi Oil-for-Food Programme.[20]

Nuclear Proliferation

Abdullah Ahmad Badawi has been criticized after one of his son's companies was found to be producing components for centrifuges purported to be intended for use in Libya's secret uranium enrichment program.

Concerns and disputes by Mahathir Mohamad and UMNO

In 2005, it was alleged that under Abdullah Badawi's administration, there had been a significant increase in cases of cronyism regarding the distribution of import permits for foreign-manufactured vehicles. Then Prime Minister Mahathir had called for an investigation of the issue. Later, Mahathir Mohamad criticized Abdullah for cancelling a number of development projects that the former had started, such as the construction of a bridge to replace the causeway linking Malaysia and Singapore.[21] Mahathir also alleged that Abdullah Badawi had originally offered to permit the Republic of Singapore Air Force to fly over Malaysian territory and sell sand to Singapore in exchange for an agreement on constructing the bridge. Mahathir construed this as an instance of "selling" Malaysian sovereignty.[citation needed]

In 2006, Mahathir stepped up his criticism against Abdullah Badawi, alleging that freedom of the press under Abdullah Badawi had actually decreased. Mahathir also added that the media refused to publish Mahathir's comments. He had accused Abdullah Badawi of reneging on promises he made to Mahathir related to government policies, and in his strongest criticism thus far, said in June 2006 that Abdullah Badawi had betrayed his trust. Mahathir expressed regret in picking Abdullah Badawi as his successor and said that he had originally intended for Abdullah Badawi's deputy, Najib Tun Razak, to succeed him. Najib, who was on a state visit to India, immediately expressed unreserved support for Abdullah Badawi.

Vote of no confidence to Abdullah Badawi in Parliament

In June 2008, the Sabah Progressive Party, a member of the 14-party ruling Barisan Nasional coalition, said its two legislators in the federal parliament will move or back a motion of no-confidence against Abdullah.

Malaysia has never experienced a serious no-confidence vote before and it is unclear what is the next step if, in the unlikely event, Abdullah loses the vote; whether a snap election is held, or whether the King dissolves parliament, or whether a new leader is given the opportunity to form a new government. No Malaysian Prime Minister has ever faced a vote of no-confidence presented by a member of his own coalition before. The Barisan Nasional has 140 lawmakers in the 222-member Parliament, enough to defeat any vote against Abdullah who is also president of the UMNO.

Nevertheless, the motion was rejected by the Speaker on the basis that there were no grounds for the motion to be put forward.


  1. ^ New Malaysian PM sworn in, Al Jazeera Archived 15 February 2011 at WebCite
  2. ^ Exit PM Pak Lah, enter Tun Abdullah Archived 15 February 2011 at WebCite
  3. ^ Noor, Elina, Noor, Ismail, Pak Lah: A Sense of Accountability–An Insight Into Effective Stewardship, Utusan Publications & Distributors, 2003, ISBN 978-967-61-1492-1
  4. ^ Case of three Abdullah Badawi's at launching of Institute, The Star, February 13, 2008 Archived 15 February 2011 at WebCite
  5. ^ Asia Future Shock: Business Crisis and Opportunity in the Coming Years, Michael Backman, Palgrave Macmillan, 2008, ISBN 978-0-230-00677-5, pg 133
  6. ^ Badawi administration signs FTA with Japan in 2006 Archived 15 February 2011 at WebCite
  7. ^ Govt to adopt new economic strategies Archived 15 February 2011 at WebCite
  8. ^ BBC NEWS, Malaysia marks 50 years as nation Archived 15 February 2011 at WebCite
  9. ^ Annie Freeda Cruez and V. Vasudevannews. "PM gets backing from BN, Umno supreme councils". New Straits Times. http://www.nst.com.my/Current_News/NST/Tuesday/Frontpage/2183705/Article/index_html. [dead link]
  10. ^ AFP. "M'sian PM defiant despite fading prospects". AsiaOne News. http://news.asiaone.com/News/AsiaOne%2BNews/Malaysia/Story/A1Story20080316-54681.html. 
  11. ^ "Malaysian prime minister sworn in for second term", Associated Press (International Herald Tribune), March 10, 2008. Archived 15 February 2011 at WebCite
  12. ^ "Malaysia PM announces new Cabinet", (CNN), March 18, 2008.[dead link]
  13. ^ Live Telecast of Parliament Malaysia, (Youtube), April 30, 2008. Archived 15 February 2011 at WebCite
  14. ^ Najib sworn in, Tunship for Abdullah and wife, 2009/04/03, New Straits Times Online[dead link]
  15. ^ Abdullah’s boon to Kepala Batas folk, 2 April 2009, The Star (Malaysia) Archived 15 February 2011 at WebCite
  16. ^ "Prime Minister To Wed Jeanne Abdullah Badawi Saturday". Bernama. 2007-06-06. Archived from the original on 2007-06-27. http://bernama.com/bernama/v3/printable.php?id=265927. 
  17. ^ Malaysia | Cleaning up? Economist.com Archived 15 February 2011 at WebCite
  18. ^ Home Archived 15 February 2011 at WebCite
  19. ^ Goh, Melissa (18 November 2006). Khairy says he does not influence government decisions. Channel News Asia.[dead link]
  20. ^ Asia Times Archived 15 February 2011 at WebCite
  21. ^ The velvet gloves come off Malaysia Today[dead link]

External links

Political offices
Preceded by
Anwar Ibrahim
Deputy Prime Minister of Malaysia
Succeeded by
Najib Razak
Preceded by
Mahathir Mohamad
Prime Minister of Malaysia
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
Mahathir Mohamad
Secretary General of the Non-Aligned Movement
Succeeded by
Fidel Castro

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