Malaysia's new prime minister Najib Razak

By Friday April 3rd, 2009 No Comments

KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) -Malaysia’s new Prime Minister Najib Razak, 55, faces an immediate challenge of steering Malaysia through its first likely recession since the

1998 Asian economic downturn.

The British-trained economist, who takes over from Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, also faces the tough task of trying to reinvigorate an ailing ruling coalition.

The following are some facts about Najib:

– He is the eldest son of Abdul Razak Hussein, Malaysia’s second prime minister. Abdul Razak is credited with rescuing the country from the brink of disaster following racial riots in 1969, and laying the foundations for modern Malaysia.

Abdul Razak expanded the ruling alliance and created what is now known as the National Front. He also introduced the New Economic Policy which gives ethnic Malays preference in jobs, education and business, to narrow the wealth gap between poor Malays and the richer Chinese minority.

– Najib, one of the youngest to be elected into Malaysia’s parliament, won his father’s constituency of Pekan in 1976 at the age of 22 after Abdul Razak died of leukemia. Najib retained the seat in six subsequent general elections, and also served for a term as chief minister in his home state of Pahang.

– Najib was groomed for political leadership. He served for 22 years under the administration of former premier Mahathir Mohamad, who has said he owes a debt of gratitude to Najib’s father for his ascent to the top post.

But Mahathir, in an interview with Reuters last month, said Najib’s entry into politics was accidental.

– Najib was a firebrand in the 1980s, heading the youth wing of the main United Malays National Organisation party at meetings where people called for Chinese blood on the Malays’ keris (traditional knives). But he has now pledged to unite all races and urged Malaysians to close ranks.

– An avid golfer, he has a network of friends and confidantes from the country’s elite business circle, whom he often taps for input. His brother, Nazir Razak, heads CIMB, Malaysia’s second-largest bank.

– After being appointed deputy prime minister in 2004, Najib was given a broad portfolio of responsibilities including oversight of FELDA, a state-run cooperative of oil palm smallholders developed by his father. FELDA is one of the world’s largest plantation owners and managers, owning over 800,000 hectares of rubber and oil palm estates.

Najib provided infrastructure and benefits for the 115,000 mostly Malay landless families under the scheme and developed a strong network of grassroots support among the rural poor.

Source : Reuters

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