By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — Malaysia's prime minister submitted his resignation on Thursday to the country's constitutional monarch before handing power to his deputy following 5½ years of largely ineffectual rule.
State television showed Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi leaving the palace about an hour after he arrived for an appointment with the king, Sultan Mizan Zainal Abidin.
Asked by a reporter what happens now that he has resigned, Abdullah said: "It's up to his majesty now."
The government was expected to issue a statement to officially announce his resignation later in the day.
Deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak will be sworn in as the new prime minister on Friday, the government said, in a carefully planned power transition that has been one year in making.
The king has already consented to Najib's appointment, said the government's chief secretary, Mohamad Sidek Hassan.
Abdullah, 69, who took office in October 2003, was pressured to step down after the ruling National Front coalition suffered its worst results ever in general elections a year ago.
On Thursday, Malaysian newspapers paid polite tributes to Abdullah's time in office, noting his achievements but some columnists also wrote candidly about his failures.
"Thank You, Pak Lah," said a headline of a special pullout in the New Straits Times, referring to Abdullah by his nickname.
Abdullah will be remembered for allowing more public freedoms than his predecessor Mahathir Mohamad, who was known for his semi-authoritarian rule during his 22 years in office. But Abdullah also failed to fulfill his promises to eradicate corruption, reform the judiciary and strengthen institutions such as the police and the civil service.
Conservatives in the ruling party also blame Abdullah's attempts to provide greater freedom of speech for the massive gains made by the opposition in the March 2008 general elections. The opposition benefited from a growing feeling of alienation among the ethnic Chinese and Indian minorities, who often are discriminated against by the majority Muslim Malays.
The ruling coalition, which has been in power since independence in 1957, failed to get a two-thirds majority for the first time in 40 years. It also lost control of an unprecedented five states.
"It is very difficult to say Abdullah has left behind a legacy of reforms," political analyst Khoo Kay Peng told The Associated Press. "He had the ambition (to introduce reforms), but he lacked political will and leadership control."
In his final interview before handing over power, Abdullah told editors of Malaysian media on Tuesday that his time in office was marked by "missed opportunities," and that the electoral fiasco was his biggest regret.
Few ever expected Abdullah to have the longevity of Mahathir, but Abdullah's five years and five months in office mark the briefest rule of any of Malaysia's five prime ministers.
Najib is scheduled to deliver a televised speech Friday to outline some of his plans, including a much-hyped "One Malaysia" policy that is supposed to curtail racial divisions by ensuring that all ethnic communities enjoy economic development.