Mukhriz Mahathir resigns as Kedah Menteri Besar; Ahmad Bashah to take over

Kedah Menteri Besar Mukhriz Mahathir (centre) at the press conference.
Kedah Menteri Besar Mukhriz Mahathir (centre) at the press conference. PHOTO: THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK
Datuk Ahmad Bashah Md Hanipah will be sworn in as the new Kedah Menteri Besar on Thursday (Feb 4) at Istana Anak Bukit.
Datuk Ahmad Bashah Md Hanipah will be sworn in as the new Kedah Menteri Besar on Thursday (Feb 4) at Istana Anak Bukit.-- THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

KUALA LUMPUR - Datuk Seri Mukhriz Mahathir resigned as Kedah chief minister on Wednesday (Feb 3) after a two-week long political crisis that ended the short rule of the son of former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad.

He would be replaced by Datuk Ahmad Bashah Md Hanipah, who would be sworn in as Menteri Besar on Thursday morning,  according to Kedah State Secretary Bakar Din.

Mr Mukhriz's resignation came after the state royalty met assemblymen from both the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition and the opposition over the past two days.

"I have resigned as Menteri Besar of Kedah with immediate effect," he told a press conference.  "To avoid this political crisis from prolonging and affecting the administration of the state to the detriment of the people, I have decided to relinquish the role of Menteri Besar of Kedah effective immediately."

 "I feel a heavy burden lifted off my shoulders," he added. 

In a parting shot at the "childish" premier, Mr Muhkriz said "the real reason this action was taken against me was because of the criticism I voiced out against the prime minister, just as he admitted himself".

Mr Mukhriz was referring to debt-ridden state investor 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) and the US$700 million (S$998 million) found in Prime Minister Najib Razak's private bank accounts. 

"Sorry to say that as long as Najib is still there, Umno is at its weakest point right now. Scandal after scandal, I think we can't take it all, it is too much for us. It is really traumatising to all of us. We can't hold our heads high," he said.

“Now I will have more opportunity to fight on and speak out for the people because this will not shut me up,” he added.

In a statement issued later on Wednesday, the Prime Minister’s Office said in Mr Mukhriz had to resign as Kedah Mentri Besar as he had lost the support of the majority of his state assemblymen.

“This was due to a lack of confidence in his leadership, both as Mentri Besar and state party leader," the statement said.

“It was also due to concerns that better preparations were needed to retain Kedah in the 14th general election.” 

Mr Mukhriz told reporters he was offered a deputy minister post but declined it, adding that he would continue to serve as Ayer Itam assemblyman.

Mr Mukhriz, 51, became Kedah Menteri Besar in 2013 after BN wrested the state from the opposition. BN's dominant party Umno controls 19 of the 36 seats in the state legislature, with ally Malaysian Chinese Association holding another two.

The political crisis, which started on Jan 20, had seen Mr Bashah leading Kedah Umno leaders in publicly stating their intention to replace Mr Mukhriz, claiming that he had failed as Menteri Besar to govern the state and lead the party. 

His  resignation came amid a protracted battle between his father and Datuk Seri Najib.  Dr Mahathir has led a faction of Umno pushing for Mr Najib's ouster for the past year over the financial scandals, among other issues.

Last year Dr Mahathir had joined a chorus of voices from across the political divide calling for Mr Najib to resign and be charged for graft.

Others who had also questioned Mr Najib's role in the bank deposits included Umno Deputy President Muhyiddin Yassin and Umno Vice-President Shafie Apdal, both of whom were removed from Cabinet last July.