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March 27, 2009

Malaysian deputy premier voted ruling party chief

Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak was formally declared president of the ruling United Malays National Organization on Thursday, a post that virtually guarantees he will soon replace Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi as the country's leader, Kyodo news reported.

Najib, 55, a British-trained economist, was elected to the post of UMNO's president unopposed at the party's ongoing general assembly earlier in the day, replacing Abdullah.

Being the dominant party in the 14-party ruling National Front (BN) coalition, UMNO's top two leaders by convention also assume the top two posts in the government.

Najib is expected to be sworn in as Malaysia's sixth prime minister in a few days, after which he will get to work on fixing an economy that is on the verge of a recession.

He inherits a party deeply divided and maligned by the general public. He also faces a resurgent opposition that is posing a real threat to UMNO and BN's unbroken 50-year grip on power as shown by its strong showing in last year's general election. Najib has said he would announce measures aimed at improving the party's bruised image.


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