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Last Updated: Saturday, 1 November, 2003, 12:48 GMT
New Malaysian PM welcomed home
Jonathan Kent
BBC, Kuala Lumpur

Thousands of people turned out to greet Malaysia's new Prime Minister, Abdullah Badawi, as he returned to his home state Penang on his first full day in office.

Abdullah Badawi  is greeted by crowds
Abdullah is expected to face an election within months
Mr Abdullah, who was sworn in as Malaysia's fifth post-independence leader on Friday, told well-wishers that his policies would mirror those of his predecessor, Mahathir Mohamad.

Mr Abdullah is the first Malaysian leader to come from the north-western state, and a large crowd had gathered at the international airport on Penang island to meet him.

There, his first speech as prime minister produced no surprises.

He stressed his desire for consensus and he praised the man he succeeded.

I wouldn't be here speaking as prime minister without the support of the people
Abdullah Badawi
Mr Abdullah promised to continue with the policies agreed by Malaysia's coalition government, under the leadership of Dr Mahathir.

His most immediate concern will be to secure a personal mandate.

He is expected to lead his National Front coalition into a general election within six months.

Mr Abdullah called on supporters to work together to deliver a better result that in 1999.

Then, the government was punished by voters disillusioned by the prosecution and jailing of the country's former Deputy Prime Minister, Anwar Ibrahim, for corruption and sodomy.

Later, accompanied by 2,000 motorcyclists, Mr Abdullah crossed the 13.5-kilometre bridge that links Penang island to the mainland, and visited the village where he grew up.

There he paid his respects at the grave of his father, a noted religious scholar, and called on his elderly mother at the family home.

She told local newspapers that her son should remain humble and not forget the people at the bottom.

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