KUALA LUMPUR - Malaysia's Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said on Tuesday (March 1) that he respects Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad's decision to quit Umno, but he is hopeful that the latter will reconsider his decision.
Datuk Seri Zahid, who is an Umno vice-president and acting deputy president, said he was confident that the former prime minister still loves the party and knows that an Umno president would need support from all party members, Bernama news agency reported.
"I'm sure that as someone who has served as a prime minister for so long, Dr Mahathir knows that he helmed (the party and country) because of the support from Umno members," Mr Zahid was quoted as saying.
"I personally respect his decision, but I think he will reconsider the decision when the time comes," he added.
Dr Mahathir, 90, quit Umno on Monday following a bitter fallout with Datuk Seri Najib Razak, whom he helped install as Prime Minister nearly seven years ago.
Speaking at a news conference, Dr Mahathir said he could no longer stay in Umno, which has become "Najib's party".
"I want to leave Umno because it is no longer Umno. It is a party dedicated to supporting Najib, protecting Najib and upholding whatever it is that he does, including some of the wrong things that he has done."
It was the second time Dr Mahathir, who is Malaysia's longest-serving prime minister, had quit the ruling party in his political career. The first time was on May 19, 2008 after reportedly losing confidence in the leadership of then prime minister and Umno president Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.
When asked whether Dr Mahathir's decision would affect the party, Mr Zahid said Umno must stay united to continue to win the hearts of the people, Bernama reported.
"I reckon that what's important is to work together to rebuild the party especially to rebuild the confidence among the Malays and the bumiputras and to make sure that Umno and Barisan Nasional continue receiving support from the people," he said.