Malaysia’s political turmoil: Five things to know

Embattled Malaysian Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin is predicted to resign on Monday after a tumultuous 17 months in power marked by his government’s poor response to the COVID-19 pandemic and growing division within the ruling coalition, local media reports have said.

He is expected to tell the king of his decision after chairing his last cabinet meeting at 10 am (02:00 GMT).

Afterwards, Mohamad Redzuan Yusof, a minister within the prime minister’s department, told online newspaper Malaysiakini that Muhyiddin had told the party he planned to resign the subsequent day.

The political upheaval comes amid rising public anger at the continued surge in coronavirus cases despite months of varied levels of lockdown.

Many Malaysians blame the govt for spending an excessive amount of time on politics and not enough time governing.

Some 12,510 people have died from the disease as overloaded government hospitals struggle to cope.

On Sunday, Malaysia recorded 20,546 cases on Sunday, its fourth successive day of quite 20,000 cases.

Who is Muhyiddin Yassin?

Muhyiddin, 74, may be a veteran politician who began his career with the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) before jumping ship amid the tumult of the multibillion-dollar 1MDB scandal in 2015.

He became prime minister in March 2020, after every week of political turmoil triggered by an influence grab within the then-ruling Pakatan Harapan coalition that led to the resignation of his predecessor, Mahathir Mohamad.

Following days of uncertainty, Muhyiddin convinced the king he had sufficient support among members of parliament to make an administration.

His Perikatan Nasional (PN) coalition included his own Bersatu party – without founder Mahathir and his supporters – defectors from the previous administration’s Parti Keadilan Rakyat, also as UMNO, Parti Islam Se Malaysia or PAS, the country’s Islamic party, and GPS, the ruling party within the Borneo state of Sarawak.

Muhyiddin’s cabinet included 70 people, the most important in Malaysian history, with four “senior ministers”. Some politicians were also appointed to prominent roles in government-linked businesses.

Muhyiddin was appointed prime minister after convincing the king he had a majority in parliament [File: Lim Huey Teng/Reuters]

What went wrong?

Muhyiddin’s support and legitimacy are questioned ever since he came to power.

As a results of an epidemic lockdown, it had been not until July 2020 that parliament sat for the primary time following the change in government. Muhyiddin survived a delayed budget vote with a majority of just two.

Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim has claimed variety of times he has the support to rule but it’s UMNO that has proved to be Muhyiddin’s biggest headache.

Part of the country’s political landscape since it had been founded in 1946, the PN-era saw an emerging split within the party’s upper echelons.

While those holding prominent positions within the cabinet backed the established order , other senior members – including UMNO President Ahmad Zahid Hamidi and former Prime Minister Najib Razak – were more critical. Zahid is unproved on a slew of corruption charges while Najib was found guilty within the first of a series of 1MDB-linked trials in 2020.

Since September last year, the party has announced its withdrawal of support for Muhyiddin variety of times.

In July, hours before Zahid was expected to announce the party would not back him, Muhyiddin promoted Ismail Sabri Yaacob and Hishammuddin Hussein, the 2 most prominent UMNO politicians in his cabinet to senior roles. Sabri was named deputy prime minister.

What about COVID-19?

Shortly after taking power, Muhyiddin imposed a strict lockdown that proved largely effective in controlling the coronavirus.

Restrictions were slowly lifted and in July 2020, the country announced zero cases.

Malaysia’s price from the coronavirus pandemic has reached 12,510 as hospitals are pushed to the limit and more patients forced to isolate reception [File: Fazry Ismail/EPA]

But an epidemic had begun to select up within the Borneo state of Sabah, where PN politicians began to maneuver against the government – aligned to the previous Pakatan Harapan administration.

A state election was involved September and politicians flew backwards and forwards between Sabah and Kuala Lumpur without being required to quarantine.

The result was a surge in cases that led to new restrictions being imposed in October. the principles were relaxed again just before the Christmas and New Year holidays – a well-liked time for travel in Malaysia – and in January cases surged again.

Muhyiddin, under increasing pressure politically, then announced he had secured the king’s backing for a state of emergency so as to battle the pandemic. the choice also suspended parliament.

Since then, cases have continued to rise, triggering what Muhyiddin called a “total lockdown” in June when the country was reporting 7,000 cases each day .

The prolonged disruption to business and schooling, including a scarcity of monetary support, has heightened anger among many Malaysians.

There are protests by children , a strike by junior doctors and a grassroots campaign to supply assistance to those most in need.

“It is clear that the present strategy isn’t working, and therefore the current administration has failed,” IMAN, a Malaysian think-tank, said during a statement on Sunday. “A new strategy and a replacement leadership are urgently needed.”

One of the few bright spots, has been a clear acceleration within the country’s vaccination programme following a sluggish start. Some 32.9 percent of the population have now had two shots, consistent with the govt .

Malaysians participate during a rare anti-government rally in Kuala Lumpur on July 31, 2021, despite a troublesome COVID-19 coronavirus lockdown in situ restricting gatherings and public assemblies {File: Arif Kartono/ AFP]

Who could take over?

It is not clear who could emerge because the country’s next prime minister, given the fluid state of political loyalties.

The ructions could see UMNO’s return to position .

Among those within the frame are Ismail Sabri, despite his prominent role in handling the pandemic.

Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah, a veteran UMNO leader, is additionally said to be an opportunity .

On the opposition side, Anwar Ibrahim, may even see this as his last chance to be prime minister, an edge which has long eluded him.

Rather than focussing on who should be subsequent prime minister, the opposition Democratic Action Party (DAP) said politicians should be watching an efficient COVID-19 ‘reset plan’, measures to support the economy and institutional reform.

What about the king’s role?

Malaysia features a unique system of monarchy where the role of king is rotated every five years among the nine Malay sultans.

The current monarch, King Al-Sultan Abdullah, is from the central state of Pahang and took the throne in 2019.

It is a constitutional monarchy, but the king has become increasingly prominent since Muhyiddin took charge.

He met each member of parliament individually before being convinced Muhyiddin had the support to make a government but also rejected Muhyiddin’s first request for an emergency last year.

In June, amid the deepening COVID-19 crisis and continued political manoeuvring, he involved parliament to take a seat “as soon as possible”, repeating the decision fortnight later.