Malaysian king appoints Muhyiddin Yassin as prime minister

Former-Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad’s bid to return to power failed after resigning in protest last week

Politician Muhyiddin Yassin, second in white shirt, talks to media outside his house after he being appointed as new prime minister in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Saturday, Feb. 29, 2020. Malaysia's king has appointed seasoned politician Muhyiddin Yassin as the new prime minister, trumping Mahathir Mohamad's bid to return to power after a week of political turmoil that followed his resignation as prime minister. (AP Photo/Vincent Thian)
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Malaysia’s king has appointed the Minister of Home Affairs Muhyiddin Yassin as the country's new prime minister, trumping former-Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad’s bid to return to power after a week of political turmoil that followed Mr Mahathir's resignation as prime minister.

The appointment of Mr Muhyiddin, who heads Dr Mahathir’s Bersatu party, will bring back to power the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), which was ousted by the former prime minister's ruling alliance in the 2018 elections.

The ousted ruling coalition, once led by Dr Mahathir, had governed Malaysia since independence in 1957 but had become entangled in a widespread corruption scandal.

Malaysia's Prime Minister Designate Muhyiddin Yassin on Saturday asked Malaysians to accept the decision made by the palace to appoint him as premier.

"I only ask for all Malaysians to accept the decision announced by the national palace today," Mr Muhyiddin told reporters at his home.

Rather than holding a parliamentary vote to select a prime minister, the king normally appoints a nominated candidate if he is satisfied they have the majority of support.

Dr Mahathir quit last week to object to the Bersatu party’s plan to work with the UMNO. Several UMNO leaders, including disgraced ex-Prime Minister Najib Razak, are on trial for corruption charges.

The former prime minister is against any form of cooperation with UMNO due to Malay-centric policies but said he would accept individuals who leave the party. Dr Mahathir resigned in protest of the plan.

Dr Mahathir had struck a new deal early Saturday to work with his former ruling alliance led by rival Anwar Ibrahim, leader of the People's Justice Party, to thwart Mr Muhyiddin’s plan but failed.

Former-Prime Minister Mahathir said he met with leaders from Anwar’s coalition, the Alliance of Hope, early Saturday and was "confident" he had "the numbers needed to garner majority support” in Parliament to return as prime minister for a third time.

Dr Mahathir, the world's oldest leader at 94, said that he was “prepared to stand as prospective candidate for prime minister,” before the King's announcement.

Prime Minister-designate Mr Muhyiddin is willing to work with the UMNO, where several leaders including ex-Prime Minister Najib Razak are on trial for corruption charges.

UMNO and its allies, including a fundamentalist Islamic party with strong rural favouring, support Mr Muhyiddin

James Chin, who heads the Asia Institute at Australia’s University of Tasmania said “If [Mr] Muhyiddin brings back UMNO into the government, it will be a tragedy for Malaysia. He will be bringing back corruption, racism and Najib and the others may get off the hook.”

Mr Muhyiddin is a 72 year-old seasoned politician who was sacked by ex-Prime Minister Najib as deputy prime minister in 2015 after he criticised Mr Najib's handling of a massive graft scandal at the 1MDB state investment fund.