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Junior Aulad

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29 March 2009

Malaysia readies for new PM promising reform

KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) – Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said on Saturday that he would seek an audience with the country's king on April 2 to announce his resignation, clearing the way for his deputy to take over.

Najib Razak, 55, will become the sixth Malaysian prime minister and will have to face the worst recession since the Asian financial crisis a decade ago when he comes to office the next day.

Najib told 2,500 cheering delegates at the annual meeting of the United Malays National Organization (UMNO), the main party in the coalition that has ruled Malaysia for 51 years, that he would he would reinvigorate the party.

"We were nearly rejected by the people. Recall that we were nearly ousted...that the power of the people determines our rise and fall," Najib said.

Tainted by corruption, racial politics and infighting, the National Front coalition stumbled to its worst ever losses in national and state elections a year ago, losing over a third of parliamentary seats.

It now faces the real prospect of losing power to the opposition, led by another former deputy prime minister Anwar Ibrahim, in elections that must be held by 2013.

Najib will face an immediate test of his ability to deliver victory to the National Front in a parliamentary by-election on April 7 which political analysts say is a must-win if he is to stamp his authority on the party, coalition and country.

He received an important endorsement on Saturday from the appearance at the congress of Mahathir Mohamad who was prime minister for 22 years until he made way for Abdullah.

Mahathir's sniping helped to bring Abdullah down and the former PM resigned his UMNO membership and said he would not attend a party congress until Abdullah was gone.

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