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Last Updated: Tuesday, 18 March 2008, 19:23 GMT
Malaysian PM unveils new cabinet
By Jonathan Head
BBC South East Asia correspondent

Malaysian PM Abdullah Badawi, 18 March 2008
Mr Abdullah's cabinet included some surprising choices
Malaysian PM Abdullah Ahmad Badawi has unveiled a substantially changed government line-up.

He was responding to the worst election result by Malaysia's governing party for 50 years.

More than half the members of the cabinet are new faces, including some well-known dissident figures.

Mr Abdullah has been widely criticised for his low-key leadership style, at a time when the government is confronting strong public disenchantment.

Never before has Malaysia's prime minister seemed this bold or decisive.

Gone are half the old faces in the cabinet, including tough-talking Trade Minister Rafidah Aziz who had held her job for more than two decades.

Newcomers

In their places, Abdullah Badawi has brought in some surprising newcomers - Zaid Ibrahim, a reformist lawyer who has been given the task of shaking up the tarnished judiciary, and Shahrir Abdul Samad, a strident dissident voice within the governing party.

The cabinet has also been slimmed down, to make it more efficient.

The normally cautious Mr Abdullah had little choice.

Malaysia's political landscape has been transformed after the historic drubbing voters gave his government 10 days ago.

There have been calls from within his own party, Umno, for his resignation.

The prime minister will now need to show that he is willing to act against problems like corruption within Umno, rising crime and heightened racial tension, if he is to win back disaffected voters.

But doing that runs the risk of upsetting powerful vested interests within the governing party, which could endanger Mr Abdullah's chances of re-election as party leader later this year.





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