Apr 3, 2009

Najib to be sworn in as Malaysia’s sixth Prime Minister

Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak is scheduled to be sworn in as Prime Minister in front of Yang diPertuan Agung Tuanku Mizan Zainal Abidin at 10am Friday.

The King had consented to the appointment of Najib as the sixth Prime Minister of Malaysia, Chief Secretary to the Government Tan Sri Mohd Sidek Hassan had said. He said in a statement Thursday that Najib would be presented his letter of appointment as Prime Minister and would take his oath of office, loyalty and confidentiality before the King at Istana Negara.

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia's Najib Razak is to be sworn in as prime minister Friday, inheriting the tough task of implementing reforms, healing racial ties and shoring up the weak economy.

Najib was to be officially appointed by the nation's king in a ceremony at the royal palace at 0200 GMT, a senior government official said.

"The swearing-in ceremony will be followed by a brief handing-over ceremony between the new prime minister and the former prime minister in the late afternoon at the prime minister's office," he told AFP.

Najib's accession to the country's top post completes a transition triggered by elections last year that saw the ruling United Malays National Organisation party (UMNO) put in its worst ever performance.

Former premier Abdullah Ahmad Badawi tendered his resignation Thursday, after agreeing several months ago to step down in the fallout from polls that transformed Malaysia's political landscape.

Abdullah spent an unremarkable six years in office, during which he initially pledged extensive reforms including tackling corruption, which is endemic in the ruling party and society at large.

However, he was punished at the ballot box for not making good on his promises, and was widely criticised as a weak and ineffective leader.

Najib became president of UMNO last week at the party's annual assembly, which was dominated by debate on how to overhaul the party and reclaim the support of voters.

According to Malaysian political tradition, the party leader takes on the country's premiership, at the head of the UMNO-led Barisan Nasional coalition.

Najib, the 55-year-old son and nephew of two former prime ministers, has said he will focus uniting the multi-racial nation, after ethnic minorities shifted to the opposition in the 2008 polls.

Malaysia's population is dominated by Muslim Malays, and among the ethnic Chinese and Indian minorities here there is a sense that their rights are eroded.

Najib also faces the challenge of cushioning the country's economy from the impact of the global economic crisis, which has seen the loss of more than 26,000 jobs here since the beginning of the year.

Earlier this month, Najib, who is also finance minister, unveiled a stimulus package worth 16.2 billion dollars but has warned the country's export-driven economy could shrink by 1.0 per cent this year despite the massive spending.

However, analysts say that before Najib can begin to tackle these issues, he must first clear the air over opposition allegations connecting him to the 2006 slaying of the mistress of his close aide -- a Mongolian woman whose body was blown up with military-grade explosives.

He has also angrily rejected allegations of corruption, and that his administration will adopt hardline tactics including detention of its opponents under tough internal security laws.

UMNO leads a coalition of race-based parties that also represent the ethnic Chinese and Indian communities, but they were hammered in elections a year ago as minorities shifted towards the opposition.

In a bid to win back support, Najib has pledged to "develop a government that respects the voices of all Malaysians."

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