Mahathirís endorsement of Abdullah as his heir-apparent would have been more effective if, for instance, he had immediately declared his support for Abdullah to succeed him when appointing him as Deputy Prime Minister in January this year, giving Abdullah time to consolidate his position in the party and government.
As it is, Abdullah has now been placed in the position of being "heir not apparent".
This is because Mahathir is giving his grudging endorsement of Abdullah as his successor when he is at one of his weakest moments in his 18-year UMNO Presidency, after leading UMNO to its worst electoral seback in the partyís history in the tenth general election of the country.
As a result, his endorsement of Abdullah is unlikely to be a powerful and indisputable recommendation which would be accepted without challenge in the forthcoming UMNO party elections next year.
His likely challengers for the top post in UMNO and the country, Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah and Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak, had been considerably weakened by their dismal showing in the recent general election, but this does not seem to have strengthened Abdullahís political power base very much.
When Abdullah was appointed as Deputy Prime Minister in January this year, he was hailed as "Mr. Clean".
This was a personal credit to Abdullah, but quite an indictment on the rest of the UMNO leadership and even the Cabinet, underlying that "Mr. Clean" was a rare commodity in the top leadership in government when it should be the rule rather than the exception.
However, after his tenure as Deputy Prime Minister for nearly a year, Abdullah has not distinguished himself as a leader who could clean up the system of corruption and money politics in the country - or the recent general election would not have been the dirtiest in the nationís history.
He seems to have also changed in the period as Deputy Prime Minister, no more as approachable, frank and forthcoming before his appointment.
Abdullah must shed his "civil service" image and project a more vigorous, colourful, independent and visionary personality if he is going to succeed as the next Prime Minister.