New Malaysian PM may reform ethnic policies

By Thursday April 2nd, 2009 No Comments

Abdullah Badawi on Thursday resigned as Malaysian prime minister in a smoothly choreographed handover of power to his deputy, Najib Razak, who is expected to be sworn in on Friday as the country’s sixth leader since independence in 1957.

Mr Najib is expected to set out the agenda for his new administration in a speech after the swearing-in ceremony by Malaysia’s king. Among his proposals could be a promise to reform the country’s controversial policy of giving preferential treatment to the ethnic Malay majority and instead focus government assistance on all racial groups, including Chinese and Indian minorities, as the country confronts its worst postwar recession.

Mr Najib took his final step to the assumption of power last week by being elected as head of the United Malays National Organisation, which has dominated the ruling National Front coalition since independence.

Mr Najib, 55, a son of a former prime minister, entered politics at age 23. He served as education and defence minister before becoming deputy prime minister in 2003 and finance minister last year.

Mr Abdullah had been under pressure to resign ever since the government suffered its biggest electoral setback at the polls in March last year, losing an unprecedented five of 13 state governments and many parliamentary seats. He announced his intention to step down in October.

Although Mr Abdullah had sought to pursue an ambitious reform agenda, he failed to make much headway because of a lack of support within Umno. Mr Najib is seen as having a better chance to implement changes after close allies were elected to top party posts at the Umno elections last week.

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2009

Source : Financial Times

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