Kuala Lumpur : Malaysia prepared for a smooth political transition Saturday with Abdullah Ahmed Badawi announcing that he would meet the royal constitutional head of state Thursday to express his intention to step down as the prime minister.
Well ahead of the end of his five-year term in 2013, Badawi has made way for his Deputy Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak, who is expected to take over early next month.
Razak became the president of the ruling United Malays National Association (UMNO) Thursday, succeeding Badawi.
In Malaysia, the UMNO chief’s job and that of the prime minister have traditionally gone together.
Badawi told the UMNO general assembly in his valedictory address that he would seek audience with the Yang di Pertuan Agong on Thursday, April 2, to express his intention to resign as prime minister, Star Online reported.
Abdullah said he hoped the official ceremony for the handing over of power to Razak could be held on the same day. He, however, said he would leave it to the royal chief, Tuanku Mizan Zainal Abidin to fix a date for him to officially hand over his duties to Razak.
“I am hereby handing over the UMNO leadership to the new president Datuk Seri Najib and may UMNO be blessed under his leadership,” he said.
Badawi took office as the country’s fifth prime minister in October 2003, taking over from long time prime minister Mahathir Mohamad.
Badawi has had a colourful political career, having served under all four previous prime ministers, first as a young civil servant, then as part of the ruling coalition and as deputy prime minister.
Earlier Saturday, he urged all UMNO members to remain loyal to the party.
Badawi’s departure marks the return to the party of Mahathir Mohamad, who had quit last year over his differences with Badawi, whom he had hand-picked in December 2003.
Mahathir showed up at the UNMO meet and held hands with Badawi and Razak to express solidarity.
Razak, poised to take over from Badawi, outlined three principles his new Government would adopt – going into businesses with high value, focusing on innovation economy and encouraging creativity.
In his winding up speech at the party’s general assembly, he said the Government was expected to allocate about RM200 billion ($70 billion approximately) next year in its efforts to overcome the economic slowdown caused by the global financial crisis.
“The desired growth of 6 to 7 percent GDP can only be achieved if the economy fully recovers,” he said.
Having a relatively prosperous economy, one of the Southeast Asian ‘tigers’, Malaysia has a multi-ethnic population of 28 million comprising majority Muslim Malays, 33 percent ethnic Chinese and eight percent Indians, mostly Tamils, who migrated during the British era.