Political pundits are holding their breath after Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad left for a two-month holiday, giving full powers to his deputy, Abdullah Ahmad Badawi. He has done the same thing twice before and both times the plan failed because his then deputies overreached during his absence. Most political insiders say it will be different this time because Dr Mahathir, 77, will return only to retire four months later. Such worries aside, all eyes are focused on Mr Abdullah, 63, a mild-mannered former bureaucrat who faces a huge task in convincing Malaysians he can step into Dr Mahathir's shoes. He has admitted his style will be different, meaning less outspoken and more accommodating, but has promised the policies that turned the country into a manufacturing powerhouse will continue. Political analysts say that unlike his predecessors, Mr Abdullah will be careful not to overreach himself. They expect him to tread carefully over divisive issues, avoid controversies and wait patiently for the real inheritance that will only come in October, when Dr Mahathir quits after 22 years in power. They add that Dr Mahathir's appointees hold all the important posts in government and the key issue is how well they and Mr Abdullah, who is also interim finance minister, work together. New measures are due this month to kick-start the lagging economy. 'The changeover from Dr Mahathir to Abdullah appears to be final,' an academic said. 'Being a dominant figure, Dr Mahathir's departure does have an unsettling effect.' In public, Mr Abdullah has a set smile and homely manners but aides say that behind the facade is a seasoned politician who can be blunt when he does not get his way. Although nobody is expecting Mr Abdullah, who has no economic experience, to match Dr Mahathir in management, there are real fears for the future. The reality behind rosy pronouncements is starting to bite - foreign direct investment is at at record low, manufacturing firms are relocating to low-cost China and cheap Chinese-made goods are driving local enterprises out of business. But still there is no real unemployment, consumer prices are holding and domestic savings are high. The government is exploiting the strengths to promote tourism, domestic investment and agriculture to keep up economic momentum. Islamic conservatism is an expanding force and it frequently clashes with secular economic and social development, an area where Mr Abdullah, with his Islamic credentials, would excel. But it is unclear how Mr Abdullah will act when push comes to shove as the fundamentalist pressure increases. One potential spark is a government drive to close 350 Islamic madrassas that are blamed for an upsurge in militancy an action that the Islamists hotly dispute.