Former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad accused the government Monday of bribing ruling party members to defeat him in party polls and warned that his "big mouth" will not stop criticizing the current leader and his family.
In some of his most combative comments since starting a one-man anti-government campaign about a year ago, Mahathir also challenged Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi to resign.
"Either he changes or he steps down," said Mahathir, 81. Otherwise, "the only way they can stop me is to throw me in jail."
Mahathir, who gave up power in October 2003 after 22 years as prime minister, accuses Abdullah - the man he hand-picked to lead Malaysia - of mismanaging the country, compromising national integrity and honor, and allowing his son and son-in-law to benefit from government contracts.
Abdullah denies the charges, and the entire Cabinet has stood behind him. Their pleas to Mahathir to end the diatribe have fallen on deaf ears and raised fears that it could split the ruling United Malays National Organization party.
Mahathir's credibility suffered a dramatic blow Saturday when he failed to win election as one of seven delegates representing the Kubang Pasu district at UMNO's annual congress in November. Kubang Pasu is in Mahathir's home state, Kedah.
Mahathir's plan was to give a speech at the congress to take his fight into the heart of the ruling party.
Mahathir will be invited to the congress as a former party president, but the right to give a speech is typically limited to current top office-bearers and delegates representing UMNO's nearly 200 local divisions.
Despite the election loss, "I am not going to stop exposing this government's misdeeds," Mahathir said. "You can try to shut me out but I have got a big mouth. I am going to use this big mouth."
Mahathir claimed he lost the election because party members in Kubang Pasu were bribed and persuaded by the government to vote against him.
He alleged that each delegate was given 200 ringgit (HK$424) and a list of candidates they should vote for.
"I lost because of lies and bribery, but morally I have won," Mahathir claimed.
"For this very small election the state government and the federal government mobilized forces that made it appear to be a presidential election."
The government did not immediately respond to Mahathir's allegations.
Mahathir's criticisms began last year, when he accused the government of not protecting the national car maker, which he had championed.
He stepped up his attacks this year after Abdullah scrapped plans for a new bridge between Malaysia and Singapore, which Mahathir had proposed. - Associated Press