In his maiden speech as premier, Abd Allah urged members of his multi-racial ruling National Front coalition to remain united and stressed the importance of “consensus and collective responsibilities”.
He paid tribute to his predecessor Mahathir Muhammad – who stepped down on Friday after 22 years in power – for lifting Malaysia to great heights and vowed to carry on his mentor’s policies.
“Thank God I inherited a government that is efficient and successful, that has turned Malaysia into the most advanced among the developing countries,” Abd Allah told some 10,000 residents and well-wishers who gathered at the airport in his home state of Penang to greet him.
“Let us work harder so that when we face the general election, we will get a bigger victory than in the last election”, he said.
“I do not ask you to work for me. I ask you all to work with me.”
Abd Allah, 63, was sworn in on Friday as Malaysia’s fifth prime minister since independence from Britain in 1957, ushering in a new political era in a country that has been dominated for two decades by Mahathir.
General elections are due in a year but are widely expected to be held early next year, and they are seen as Abd Allah’s first test as premier.
“I do not ask you to work for me. I ask you all to work with me”
Abd Allah Ahmad Badawi
His main opposition comes from the Islamic Party (PAS).
Abd Allah, widely known as Pak Lah (Uncle Lah), shook hands with his supporters who waited more than an hour under the sweltering heat for the arrival of their “village hero”.
A number of supporters wore tee-shirts bearing Abd Allah’s face and a huge banner read: “We pledge our loyalty to you our beloved Pak Lah”.
He was later escorted by a motorcade of some 2000 motorcyclists to his village in Kepala Batas.
Norli Mohamad Rawa, 31, expressed hope that Abd Allah would build on Mahathir’s achievements and said: “He may look gentle but he can be firm like Mahathir”.
Abd Allah’s mother says he can
Lawrence Sadanar Samy, 36, said he expected few policy changes, with Abd Allah expected to follow through Mahathir’s dream of turning Malaysia into a developed country by 2020.
“Malaysia is like a car that is running smoothly. You don’t want to overtune it,” he added.
Abd Allah will seek blessings from his 79-year-old mother Kailan Hassan and break the Muslim Ramadan fast with his family, before attending a nearby mosque for prayers and a thanksgiving feast planned by his supporters.
Kailan has described Abd Allah’s appointment as God’s will and has advised her son to remain down-to-earth.
“It never crossed my mind Abd Allah will become prime minister. Everything is up to God. We should not be carried away by positions,” she said.
On Sunday, he gets down to work by visiting flood victims in the northern region and handing out aid packages before returning to Kuala Lumpur and clocking-in at the PM’s office early Monday morning.
Later in the day he will deliver his first parliamentary address.