Related News

Home » World

Malaysia's new PM inherits flagging economy

DIGNITARIES and guests filled a hall at the royal palace for the swearing-in today of Malaysia's next prime minister, who faces myriad challenges, including a flagging economy, a racially divided society and a moribund ruling party.

Deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak, who will take the oath of office from the king, replaces Abdullah Ahmad Badawi as the country's sixth prime minister. Abdullah resigned yesterday - part of a power transition dictated by the ruling United Malays National Organization in the wake of massive losses in last year's general elections.

But in a sign of possible trouble to come, the country's three opposition parties asked the king to delay Najib's swearing-in until he has been cleared of allegations of corruption and links to a murder case.

"Unlike Abdullah who inherited a battleship in full steam, Najib is taking over a battered ship and this may explain why he seems solemn and thoughtful rather than celebratory," wrote analyst Joceline Tan in The Star newspaper.

But front pages across Malaysia were reveling.

"It's his time," the New Straits Times said in a full page headline that showed Najib in a dark suit. "Enter Najib," said the Star.

Najib's rise to the premiership is as much a story about Abdullah's political decline.

Abdullah took office in October 2003, riding a huge wave of popularity as he replaced Mahathir Mohamad, a manipulative and sharp-tongued leader who brooked no opposition or dissent during 22 years in office.

In contrast, the soft-spoken Abdullah captured the hearts of Malaysians with promises of reforms in the judiciary, police force and civil service. He pledged greater political freedom and more political space for critics.

Most promises fell by the wayside although he ushered in limited freedom of speech.

Conservatives in his party say that was his undoing as it bolstered the newly resurgent opposition led by former Deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim.

In the March 2008 elections, the ruling National Front coalition suffered its worst results in the 51 years it has been in power. It failed to get a two-thirds majority for the first time in 40 years, conceding 82 seats to the opposition in the 222-member Parliament. It also lost an unprecedented five states.

The loss was largely a result of ethnic Chinese and Indian minorities switching allegiances to Anwar as they chaffed against decades-old policies that give preference to majority Malays in jobs, education and business.

Najib will have a tough time healing the country's politics, society and economy.

Malaysia's economy has been hit badly by the global financial crisis and is expected to shrink by 1 percent in 2009.

Najib's personal reputation also has been called into question.

The opposition has repeatedly accused Najib of corruption in a deal to buy French submarines when he was defense minister. It has also alleged he was linked to the killing of a Mongolian woman, who was the estranged lover of a close friend. Najib has denied the allegations as "malicious lies."


Copyright © 1999- Shanghai Daily. All rights reserved.Preferably viewed with Internet Explorer 8 or newer browsers.

沪公网安备 31010602000204号

Email this to your friend