Friday, February 13, 2009

Abdullah Badawi stepping down on Mar 31- Malaysiakini

Within five years, Mr Abdullah lost the goodwill of voters upset by unfulfilled promises of reforms. -- PHOTO: AP

KUALA LUMPUR - MALAYSIA'S prime minister will likely step down on March 31, an official said on Friday, capping a tumultuous five-year rule during which the governing coalition slipped to its weakest political position ever.

Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, who presided over disastrous election results in March 2008, had announced earlier that he would step down and hand over office to Deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak. But he has not given a date.

However, the prime minister's aides are expecting their last day at work to be March 31, an official close to Mr Abdullah told The Associated Press. He spoke on condition of anonymity because the news has not been made public.

He said Mr Abdullah will attend the ruling United Malays National Organisation party's annual general meeting from March 25-28. Mr Najib will be formally named UMNO leader, a traditional prerequisite for assuming the prime minister's job, on March 28 and then sworn in on March 31, the official said.

If the plan isn't carried out, the swearing-in could take place April 3, a holy day for Muslims, the official said.

Mr Abdullah took office on Oct 31, 2003, replacing longtime leader Mahathir Mohamad. He led the ruling National Front coalition, which is dominated by the UMNO, to a record victory in the March 2004 general elections when it won 91 per cent of seats in Parliament.

But within five years, Mr Abdullah lost the goodwill of voters upset by unfulfilled promises of reforms. In the March 2008 general elections, the National Front lost its traditional two-thirds majority in Parliament and control of five states to a three-party opposition alliance.

The Front has regained control of one of the states, Perak, after several legislators from the opposition coalition switched allegiance.

The opposition filed a lawsuit on Friday against the National Front's new chief minister in Perak, claiming his appointment was unconstitutional.

One of Mr Najib's first tests after taking power will be two special elections in April to fill legislative vacancies in northern Malaysia.

Mr Najib had spearheaded the campaign for two similar by-elections in the past six months, but the National Front lost both. -- AP

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