Kept on as ‘caretaker’ PM . . .
Malaysia’s Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin tendered his resignation after a tumultuous 17-month stint in office, the shortest in the country’s history. The 74-year-old and his cabinet have stepped down after their ruling coalition, Perikatan Nasional (PN), lost its already-slim parliamentary majority. However, since Malaysia’s constitution lacks provisions for a minority government and no other party bloc holds a majority, King Abdullah Shah appointed Muhyiddin as “caretaker” prime minister while the search for a new one ensues. With this ‘new’ status, Muhyiddin can still perform his executive duties with limited powers and continue advising the monarch until a replacement is appointed.
Hot seat for the taking, but not the time for elections . . .
With the prime minister’s seat open, political parties have been scrambling to cobble together enough support for their candidate to replace Muhyiddin. To date, the most promising PM candidates are part of Malaysia’s powerful United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) party, especially Muhyiddin’s deputy prime minister, Ismail Sabri Yaakob, who also has partial backing from the party leadership. Key opposition leaders, including veteran Anwar Ibrahim, remain in the running and have expressed tentative willingness to work with other smaller opposition parties or disenfranchised UMNO members. Under Malaysia’s constitution and with previous legal precedent, the king has the power to appoint a new prime minister who he believes commands a parliamentary majority without calling an election. The palace has repeatedly advised against holding elections amid an unmitigated COVID-19 crisis, as the 2020 Sabah state election largely contributed to ongoing transmission waves.
Paying the price for ongoing political instability . . .
Whoever ascends to the high post will inherit a Malaysia in dire straits. The country continues to tally over 20,000 daily COVID-19 cases, straining the health-care system. Extended lockdowns with several levels of stringency across the country are, in turn, pushing back any prospects of economic recovery. The continued political instability has also eroded confidence in the Malaysian economy as foreign investors exit the domestic market. The monarch continues to meet with party leaders, evaluating the parliamentary support of proposed PM candidates. He has urged politicians to work together and forge consensus among internally splintered political parties. His priority continues to be forming a coalition cabinet capable of addressing Malaysia’s pandemic challenges.
- Channel News Asia: Muhyiddin Yassin’s 17 months in office marked by COVID-19 and dissent within ruling coalition
- Nikkei Asia: Malaysia’s king seeks names for next PM: Candidates to watch
- South China Morning Post: As Malaysia’s political uncertainty rumbles on, foreign investors are exiting the local stock market