KUALA LUMPUR (AFP) – A former Interior Minister backed by a scandal-mired party was sworn in as Malaysia’s premier yesterday after a reformist government’s collapse, but ex-leader Mahathir Mohamad, 94, slammed the move as illegal.
The Southeast Asian nation was plunged into turmoil after Mahathir’s ‘Pact of Hope’ alliance, which stormed to a historic victory in 2018, collapsed amid bitter infighting.
Mahathir, who was the world’s oldest leader, initially quit as premier but then sought to return.
He lost in a power struggle however to little-known Muhyiddin Yassin, who heads a new coalition.
The king’s decision on Saturday to pick Muhyiddin as premier was greeted with shock as Mahathir’s allies claimed to have enough support, and it sparked widespread anger that the democratically elected government had been ejected.
Muhyiddin’s coalition includes the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), the party of disgraced ex-leader Najib Razak, as well as a hardline group that wants tougher Islamic laws.
UMNO was the corruption-riddled lynchpin of a coalition thrown out at the 2018 elections as allegations swirled that Najib and his cronies looted billions of dollars from state fund 1MDB. Najib is now on trial for corruption.
Just before Muhyiddin’s inauguration, Mahathir accused him of betrayal and said he would seek a parliament vote challenging the new premier’s support – signalling the political crisis is far from over.