Malaysia's Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi has replaced Mahathir Mohamad, who ruled the country in an increasingly authoritarian manner from 1981 until 2003. Abdullah has a reputation as a reformer who is personally incorruptible, and midway through his first term in office, Malaysian civil and political liberties have improved marginally. However, the regime's grip on power remains as strong as ever, and the lack of institutional change means that the regime will likely meet any serious challenge to its authority with the heavy-handed tactics characteristic of previous governments.