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Malaysia's Prime Minister Abdullah Is Sworn In - 2004-03-22


Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi was sworn into office today (Monday), a day after a resounding victory in national elections that beat back a challenge from his Islamist opposition.

Mr. Abdullah's United Malays National Organization party and its partners won nearly 90 percent of the seats in Parliament (195 of 219 seats) in Sunday's vote. The secular coalition also gained a majority in 12 of Malaysia's 13 state assemblies.

Despite early reports that Islamic fundamentalists hold a slim majority in the Kelantan state assembly, ballots are still being re-counted, and the outcome is unclear. The Islamic party (Parti Islam se-Malaysia), known as PAS, wants to turn Malaysia into a strict Islamic state, even though 40 percent of its population is non-Muslim.

Mr. Abdullah's coalition advocates a more progressive form of Islam that is more tolerant toward non-Muslims.

The Malaysian government's previous five-year term was valid for another eight months, but elections had been expected since October, when Mr. Abdullah succeeded former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohammad, who retired after 22 years in power.

Voters turned out in large numbers for the snap election, which was called less than three weeks ago.

Opposition leaders blamed their poor showing on a campaign that lasted just eight days, and on their lack of access to government-controlled news media. They also claimed bias by the Election Commission and charged there were a number of voting irregularities.

Information for this report is provided by AP and Reuters.

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