Malaysian prime minister resigns (Lead)

April 2nd, 2009 - 5:10 pm ICT by IANS  

Kuala Lumpur, April 2 (DPA) Malaysian prime minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi resigned Thursday after obtaining the consent of the country’s constitutional monarch, paving the way for his deputy, Najib Razak, to be declared the new premier.
Abdullah, 70, arrived at the royal palace in Kuala Lumpur early Thursday to hand his letter of resignation to King Mizan Zainal Abidin.

As he drove out of the palace an hour later, a smiling Abdullah told reporters gathered outside: “It’s up to His Majesty now”.

Government officials said Najib was due to be sworn in as the country’s sixth prime minister Friday at a ceremony at the palace.

Abdullah served as premier for slightly more than five years after he took over from former leader Mahathir Mohamad in November 2003.

Najib was officially declared party president of the United Malays National Organization (UNMO) March 26 after Abdullah announced he would not be seeking re-election.

The president of UMNO, which is the most powerful party in the ruling National Front coalition, usually becomes the country’s prime minister.

Abdullah’s reign will be mostly remembered as a time of political upheaval for Malaysia, the most important event being last year’s general elections when the opposition took control of five of the country’s 13 states from the ruling coalition.

Former deputy premier Anwar Ibrahim also led the three-party opposition alliance to deny the National Front a two-thirds majority in parliament for the first time in almost 40 years.

Abdullah was blamed for the shocking losses with critics lashing out at his failure to make good on reform pledges and to cleanse the government and civil services of corruption.

Initially refusing to step down, he caved in to mounting pressure and finally announced he would not seek re-election as UMNO’s president.

“Abdullah will be remembered by future generations as the father of democracy for allowing more freedom of speech and opinions,” said Denison Jayasooria, a political analyst.

“But he will also be remembered for not having the political will or leadership to push across the many reforms he had promised upon taking office,” he said.

In interviews leading up to his resignation, Abdullah has denied he will play any role as government advisor once he steps down.

Instead, Abdullah has said he will be happy fishing and tending to his garden in retirement.

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