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. Abdullah was then conferred the title Tun by his majesty Mizan Zainal Abidin for his service to the nation.
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. 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. 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.
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 Cambridge.
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.
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. 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.