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THE WORLD

Malaysian Premier to Quit in 2003

June 26, 2002|From Times Wire Services

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, one of Asia's longest-serving leaders, will hand power to his deputy late next year under a long transition plan announced Tuesday in hopes of calming nerves shaken by his sudden attempt to resign last weekend.

The ruling United Malays National Organization said Mahathir, 76, a shrewd politician who has presided over 21 years of immense change in Malaysia, had agreed to postpone his retirement plans to ensure a smooth transfer of power to Deputy Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.

Mahathir shocked Malaysians by saying at a televised party conference Saturday that he wanted to quit. He agreed to stay after party elders took him to a back room and begged him not to resign.

Abdullah served as education, defense and foreign minister before becoming Mahathir's deputy, but he lacks experience in economic policy.

Investors praised the plan as an orderly transition, but it was unclear whether the framework would soothe leaders of neighboring countries who are fretting over the potential for instability in Muslim-majority Malaysia.

Opposition politicians were sour on the plan. Kamaruddin Jaafar, a leader of the Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party, criticized it as "the longest resignation notice submitted by any leader in the world."

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