Thursday, April 2, 2009

Badawi formally resigns

KUALA LUMPUR (Malaysia) - MALAYSIA'S prime minister submitted his resignation Thursday to the country's constitutional monarch before handing power to his deputy following 5 and a half years of largely ineffectual rule.

Reporters and a small group of people gathered outside the national palace as Abdullah's motorcade drove in for an appointment with the king, Sultan Mizan Zainal Abidin. Mr Abdullah, 69, left the palace after about an hour, state-run television showed.

Asked by its reporter what happens now that he has resigned, Mr Abdullah said: 'It's up to his majesty now.' The government was expected to issue a statement to officially announce his resignation later in the day.

Deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak will be sworn in as the new prime minister on Friday, the government said, in a carefully planned power transition that has been one year in making. The king has already consented to Mr Najib's appointment, said the government's chief secretary, Mohamad Sidek Hassan.

Mr Abdullah, who took office in October 2003, was pressured to step down after the ruling National Front coalition suffered its worst results ever in general elections a year ago.

Mr Abdullah will be remembered for allowing more public freedoms than his predecessor Mahathir Mohamad, who was known for his semi-authoritarian rule during his 22 years in office. But Mr Abdullah also failed to fulfill his promises to eradicate corruption, reform the judiciary, strengthen institutions such as the police and the civil service.

Conservatives in the ruling party also blame Mr Abdullah's attempts to provide greater freedom of speech for the massive gains made by the opposition in the March 2008 general elections. The opposition benefited from a growing feeling of alienation among the ethnic Chinese and Indian minorities, who often are discriminated against by the majority Muslim Malays.

The ruling coalition, which has been in power since independence in 1957, failed to get a two-thirds majority for the first time in 40 years. It also lost control of an unprecedented five states.

Few ever expected Mr Abdullah to have the longevity of Mahathir, but Mr Abdullah's five years and five months in office mark the briefest rule of any of Malaysia's five prime ministers.

Mr Najib is scheduled to deliver a televised speech on Friday to outline some of his plans, including a much-hyped 'One Malaysia' policy that is supposed to curtail racial divisions by ensuring that all ethnic communities enjoy economic development. -- AP

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