After Anwar Ibrahim was dismissed, Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad appointed Abdullah as Deputy Prime Minister in 1999. 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, Barisan Nasional won a slim majority of seats, but lost its two-thirds majority and also lost 5 states to Opposition Pact. He stepped down in favour of his successor, Najib Razak, during the UMNO General Assembly held on 1 April 2009. On 3 April 2009, he was succeeded by Najib Razak as prime minister. Abdullah was then conferred the title 'Tun' by King Mizan Zainal Abidin for his service to the nation.
He was also a Member of Parliament for Kepala Batas from 1978 to 2013. Currently, he serves as the Chancellor of Universiti Teknologi Petronas (UTP).
Abdullah Ahmad Badawi was born in Bayan Lepas, Penang to a prominent religious family. Badawi's paternal grandfather, Syeikh Abdullah Badawi Fahim, was of Hadrami 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 mother, Kailan Haji Hassan passed away in Kuala Lumpur at the age of 78 on 2 February 2004. His maternal grandfather, Ha Su-chiang (traditional Chinese: 哈蘇璋; simplified Chinese: 哈苏璋; pinyin: hā sūzhāng; Wade–Giles: Ha Su-chang) (also known as Hassan Salleh), was a Utsul Muslim who came from Sanya in Hainan.
Badawi is a former student of Bukit Mertajam High School. He studied at MBS (Methodist Boy's School) Penang for his 6th form. Badawi obtained a Bachelor of Arts degree in Islamic Studies from the University of Malaya in 1964.
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 father).
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 the Semangat 46 (Spirit 46) party which was set up by Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah. Semangat 46 is now defunct.
When UMNO (Baru) was formed in February 1988, Mahathir, the UMNO President and Prime Minister, brought Abdullah into the pro tem 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 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.
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 emphasised 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 Barisan Nasional (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 Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party (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.
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.
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 privatisation.
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.
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. However, Abdullah has been criticised 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.
On 31 August 2007, Abdullah Badawi shouted 'Merdeka!' 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.
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. It took a while before open dissent started brewing at grassroots levels, with petition and campaigns being launched to ask for his resignation.
He was sworn in for a second term as prime minister on 10 March 2008. Badawi unveiled a streamlined 68-member Cabinet on 18 March 2008, dropping half the ministers in his previous administration and keeping the crucial finance portfolio for himself.
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. Mukhriz Mahathir, the son of the former premier, openly called for him to step down. The UMNO Youth chief, Hishammuddin, 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), 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.
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 sworn in as the Prime Minister the following day. Abdullah was then conferred with a "Tun" title by the King. 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.
On 20 October 2005, Abdullah Badawi's 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.
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. Ahmad Badawi. Ku Cari Damai Abadi. I Seek Eternal Peace. In 80 Languages. Editor Assoc. Professor Dr. Victor Pogadaev. Kuala Lumpur: Penerbit Universiti Malaya, 2008
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.Malaysia | Cleaning up? Economist.com
Abdullah Ahmad Badawi has been criticised 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.Home
Abdullah Ahmad Badawi has been criticised for allowing his son-in-law, Khairy Jamaluddin, to become unduly influential in UMNO politics.
Abdullah Ahmad Badawi has been criticised for endorsing his relatives who were involved in abuses related to the Iraqi Oil-for-Food Programme.
Abdullah Ahmad Badawi has been criticised 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.
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 criticised 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.
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.Ahli Mangku Negara (1971)
Kesatria Mangku Negara (1974)
Darjah Johan Negeri (1979)
Darjah Yang Mulia Pangkuan Negeri (1981)
The Kwangha Medal (South Korea, 1983)
Grand Cordan of the Order of the Sacred Treasure (Japan, 1991)
Grand Cross of the Order of Merit (Chile, 1994)
First Class of the Most Exalted Order of the White Elephant (Thailand, 1994)
Darjah Gemilang Pangkuan Negeri (1997)
First Class of Order of Democratic People's Republic of Korea Friendship (North Korea, 1997)
Seri Panglima Darjah Kinabalu (1999)
Darjah Kebesaran Sultan Ahmad Shah Pahang Yang Amat DiMulia (1999)
Darjah Kebesaran Seri Paduka Mahkota Selangor (2000)
Darjah Seri Paduka Negeri Sembilan (2000)
Darjah Setia Tuanku Syed Sirajuddin Jamallulail (2001)
Darjah Seri Paduka Sultan Azlan Shah (2003)
Datuk Patinggi Bintang Kenyalang (2003)
Darjah Kerabat Johor Yang Amat Dihormati Pangkat Pertama (2004)
Darjah Utama Negeri Melaka (2004)
Order of José Marti (Cuba, 2004)
Darjah Seri Utama Sultan Mizan Zainal Abidin (2005)
Bintang Republik Indonesia Adipradana (Indonesia, 2007)
Malaysia : Honorary Grand Commander of the Order of the Defender of the Realm (2009)
Seri Utama Mahkota Wilayah (2010)