Monday, 10 March 2008

Abdullah Badawi sworn in as PM

Abdullah Ahmad Badawi has been sworn in as Prime Minister for a second five-year term, rejecting calls to resign after the ruling coalition's worst-ever election performance

"I pledge to carry out my duties honestly and with all my abilities," he said, reading out the oath on Monday as he was sworn in by the Yang diPertuan Agong.

"I pledge to protect and uphold the constitution."

The Barisan Nasional (BN), retained a simple majority in Saturday's polls, but suffered unprecedented losses to a loose opposition coalition.

The loss of seats also broke the BN's hold on two-thirds of the parliamentary majority which enabled to amend the constitution without debate.

Earlier Abdullah had said he did not have to step down because he still had strong support from BN party leaders.

"I will not resign because there is no pressure," he was quoted as saying by national news agency, Bernama, on Sunday.

Abdullah, who is Umno president, is expected to meet his party leaders in a special session later today.

The coalition also lost a number of senior leaders and cabinet ministers to the opposition DAP, PAS and Keadilan, which has close ties to former deputy prime minister, Anwar Ibrahim.

Aside from parliamentary losses, the BN lost control in five states including Penang, Abdullah's home state, and Kedah.

Penang, which was ruled by Gerakan, the fourth biggest coalition partner, for nearly 40 years, fell to the DAP, while Perak, Kedah and Selangor are now under opposition rule.

Samy Vellu, the longest-serving cabinet minister, reportedly made a hasty retreat as the final results were announced, saying only "Goodbye" to reporters.

His defeat, and the slashing of the MIC's parliamentary presence from nine to three seats, was seen as part of a backlash by ethnic Indian voters following recent high-profile protests against alleged racial discrimination.

Popular bloggers, Jeff Ooi and Tony Pua, who contested in the elections for the first time won seats in parliament, posting big margins against more senior BN candidates.

Both men stood as candidates for the DAP.

In 2004, Abdullah, led the BN to a record win, scoring nearly 64 per cent of the popular vote and just over 90 per cent of seats in parliament.

Former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad has called his successor to step down following Saturday's vote, sayind that Abdullah should take 100 per cent responsibility for the coalition's disastrous election showing.

BN leaders however sought to show a united stance, expressing their full support for Abdullah to continue leading the coalition and country.

"The prime minister has a full mandate. He will appoint a new cabinet," Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, the deputy information minister, told The Associated Press.

"There is no one person to blame for what happened. We all are taking the collective responsibility."

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