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February 13, 2009

Malaysia: Najib to assume premiership on March 31
Malaysia's deputy premier Najib Razak will take over as Prime Minister from Abdullah Ahmad Badawi on March 31, Reuters quoted an influential news website as reporting Wednesday.

Quoting an unnamed source, the Malaysian Insider ( said Najib will assume the premiership on the same day that Abdullah clocks out, and will chair his first Cabinet meeting the next day.

Najib, the son of Malaysia's second Prime Minister Razak Hussein, will stand unopposed as the leader of the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), the lead component in the country's ruling National Front in party elections scheduled from March 24 to March 28.

"Pak Lah (Abdullah) will stand down three days after the end of the UMNO general assembly, and hand over the reins to Najib," the report quoted its source as saying.

Najib takes over a country that is sliding towards recession. Data released on Thursday showed exports fell nearly 15 percent in December from a year ago, much worse than expected.

Abdullah took over the helm of this Southeast Asian country on Oct 31 2003 from long-serving premier Mahathir Mohamad.

Abdullah led the National Front to a historic sweep of over 90 per cent of parliament seats in polls held in March 2004.

Abdullah's lacklustre administration and unfulfilled reform promises led in part to a polls backlash in the general elections in 2008 when the coalition lost its cast-iron two-thirds parliamentary majority forcing Abdullah to quit early.

The 55-year old British-educated Najib will be leading a coalition and government still struggling to turn around from the election losses amid the first likely recession in eight years for Malaysia.

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