Muhyiddin Yassin Appointed New PM of Malaysia

Controversial appointment follows shock resignation . . .

Malaysia’s constitutional monarch, King Sultan Abdullah, appointed Muhyiddin Yassin as the country’s new prime minister on Sunday. The development follows weeks of political turmoil, with former PM Mahathir Mohamad resigning last Monday over divisions within his ruling coalition, Pakatan Harapan (PH). Mahathir, a politician who dominated Malaysian politics for decades, was quickly re-appointed as interim prime minister, but his tenure was short-lived. After conducting interviews with all 222 members of Malaysia’s lower house, the king concluded that Muhyiddin had the support of the majority – a claim disputed by Mahathir.

Who is Muhyiddin Yassin?

The 72-year-old Muhyiddin Yassin, more than two decades younger than Mahathir, was not considered a potential prime minister, until he was. Before being sworn in as the new PM, he served as Mahathir’s home minister and was in charge of internal security. A former member of the National Front (BN), the previous ruling coalition ousted by Mahathir in 2018, Muhyiddin is noted for his ethnic nationalist views, and relies on support from parties dominated by Malaysia’s ethnic Malay majority, such as the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) and the Islamic Party of Malaysia (PAS). In contrast, Mahathir refused to partner with UMNO, citing the party’s record of corruption – Najib Razak, the former prime minister and UMNO’s former leader, is currently being tried on corruption-related charges.

Questions of nationalism and corruption . . .

Muhyiddin’s appointment comes as Malaysia continues to grapple with questions of nationalism and corruption. The country is about 60 per cent Muslim Malay, with substantial Chinese and Indian minorities. In Mahathir’s PH coalition, for the first time in history, the two minority groups obtained wide representation in national politics. But Muhyiddin’s ascendance to power threatens to usher in a right-wing government that will again relegate minority concerns to a backseat. Analysts also suggest that a number of scandal-tainted UMNO members may be returning to power, despite Muhyiddin’s assurance that he would “stamp out corruption and abuse of power.” For now, while Malaysia awaits Muhyiddin’s new cabinet appointments, Mahathir is continuing his campaign against Muhyiddin, threatening a vote of non-confidence when parliament convenes on March 9.