Malaysia’s political crisis worsened on Saturday after 94-year-old Mahathir Mohamad rejected the king’s decision to choose his rival as next prime minister, insisting that he had enough support to return to the role.
Former Interior Minister Muhyiddin Yassin was previously appointed for the job by the monarch, who appoints the country’s premier after deciding who has the support of parliamentarians, signaling a defeat for Mahathir and the return to power of a party plagued by scandals .
It ended a week of unrest that began when Mahathir’s “Pact of Hope” alliance collapsed and resigned as Prime Minister following an attempt by his rivals to form a new government and oust the leader of the Anwar wait. Ibrahim.
Their alliance reached a historic victory in 2018 that broke a six-year squeeze over the power of a corruption-ridden coalition, but was fought over who was to succeed the world’s oldest leader.
The victory of Muhyiddin and his coalition, which is dominated by the country’s ethnic Malaysian Muslim majority, was a shock as Mahathir appeared to be in the lead and sparked widespread public anger.
The victory not only removes a democratically elected government, but also signals the return to power of the United Malays National Organization (UMNO), the scandal-stricken party of former disgraced leader Najib Razak.
UMNO was the centerpiece of a long-standing coalition that fell out of power in the historic elections two years ago amid accusations Najib and his cronies sacked the 1MDB state fund. Najib is now on trial for corruption.
The coalition also includes a tough Muslim party that pushes for stricter Islamic laws in Malaysia.
Addressing supporters outside his Kuala Lumpur home, Muhyiddin said: “I urge all Malaysians to make the decision made today by the palace.”
The palace had previously said that the king believed that Muhyiddin had enough support and that he would swear Sunday.
– Not My PM –
But after meeting his political allies, Mahathir said he received the support of 114 MPs as prime minister – above the required number of 112 – and issued a statement listing their names.
Mahathir said he would send a letter to the king to explain it, and added that the number of MPs Muhyiddin claimed to have supported him was not “accurate”.
Anger was growing over the surprise decision to appoint Prime Minister Muhyiddin and allow UMNO to return to power. The NotMyPM hashtag was trending on Twitter and a small group of protesters gathered in central Kuala Lumpur.
“These are not the people we voted for,” a protester told AFP, who gave her only the last name in a short time, while singing the songs of “long live people, rise up”.
“These are not the people who were given the democratic mandate two years ago.”
The political crisis began when a group of ruling coalition lawmakers joined forces with opposition parties in an attempt to form a new government without Anwar and prevent him from becoming prime minister.
After the fall of the government, Mahathir was appointed interim prime minister and he and Anwar initially launched separate offers for power, reviving their old rivalry.
But when Muhyiddin’s offer quickly gained support and it became clear that he could rise to power with UMNO, Mahathir and Anwar came face to face and joined forces again on Saturday.
An increasing number of their allies threw their support behind Mahathir to become premier – but it was too little, too late.
The “Pact of Hope”, a gang of opposition groups, was uncomfortable from the start. He saw his popularity drop quickly as he faced criticism that he wasn’t doing enough to protect Muslim rights and lost a series of local elections.
Muhyiddin, 72, has been a member of the UMNO for many decades and has held a number of senior positions. He was deputy prime minister in Najib’s government, but Najib fired him after criticizing the 1MDB scandal.
He is viewed as a Malaysian nationalist and once sparked anger by saying that he was “Malaysian first” and second Malaysian – a controversial claim in the country of 32 million which also houses substantial Chinese and Indian ethnic minorities.