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Malaysian PM Sworn In - 2003-10-31

In Malaysia, Abdullah Ahmad Badawi has been sworn as the country's fifth prime minister. As Mr. Badawi takes over from Asia's longest serving leader, Mahathir Mohamad.

Mr. Badawi took the oath of office Friday before Malaysia's titular head of state, King Syed Sirajuddin Putra Jamalullai, and Malaysia's political and religious leaders.

Mr. Badawi pledged to discharge his responsibilities with honesty and to the best of his abilities and to safeguard the constitution of the country.

The ceremony was witnessed by outgoing prime minister, Mahathir Mohamad, who governed the country for 22 years. During his tenure, Malaysia became the world's 17th largest economy.

Mr. Mahathir's government was criticized by human rights groups for authoritarianism and draconian security laws. But it also created democratic institutions that have been emulated by many countries in the region.

Mr. Mahathir was also known for criticizing the policies of wealthy, western nations, but he advocated secular government and a moderate form of Islam in a country where Muslims are 60 percent of the population.

Shortly before his retirement, Mr. Mahathir said he will continue to be outspoken.

"I'll be even more irresponsible after I've stepped down from being the prime minister," he said. "But, of course, not being the prime minister, probably people won't take notice of what I say, so I'll be more free."

However, Mr. Mahathir indicated he does intend to leave politics, saying it is time now for others to lead.