Malaysia’s new leader has postponed the next session of Parliament by more than two months, effectively delaying plans by Mahathir Mohamad’s former ruling alliance to seek a no-confidence vote against him.
Lower house speaker Mohamad Ariff Mohamad Yusof said in a statement Wednesday that lawmakers will reconvene on May 18 instead of March 9 as originally scheduled. He said the decision was based on Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin’s order, but no reason was given for the postponement.
Muhyiddin, 72, was sworn in Sunday as Malaysia’s eighth prime minister after his surprise weekend appointment by the king capped a week of political turmoil.
Muhyiddin led his Bersatu party out of the governing Pakatan Harapan (Alliance of Hope), depriving it of a majority and causing its collapse less than two years after its historic victory in 2018 ousted a corruption-tainted coalition that had ruled for 61 years.
Bersatu joined hands with the same coalition that it ousted, along with several smaller parties, to form a Malay-majority government. Mahathir, 94, resigned to protest Bersatu’s plan to work with the former government.
Mahathir tried to make a comeback, but it was too late, as the king appointed Muhyiddin, whom he deemed had the support of a majority of lawmakers.
But Mahathir said he had majority backing to serve as prime minister for a third time. He has called for an urgent vote in Parliament to test Muhyiddin’s claim of majority support, warning that any delay could see his supporters being inducted to support the government of the day.
There was no immediate response from Mahathir’s camp on the delayed resumption of Parliament. Many Malaysians are angered by what they see as a betrayal of their vote for a change in 2018 elections, with small protest rallies held over the weekend to “reject the traitors.”
Muhyiddin, a nationalistic politician who once famously quipped he was Malay first and Malaysian second, appealed for support in an address to the nation Monday. He denied he was a traitor and promised to form a corrupt-free Cabinet despite bringing back to power the United Malays National Organization. Several UMNO leaders, including ex-Prime Minister Najib Razak, are on trial on corruption charges.
Muhyiddin’s government also includes a hard-line Islamic party, sparking fears of greater Islamization and more pro-Malay policies. Ethnic Malays account for 60 percent of Malaysia’s 32 million people, with large Chinese and Indian minorities.
Muhyiddin and Mahathir were former members of UMNO when they formed Bersatu in 2016 amid anger over a massive corruption scandal involving the 1MDB state investment fund. Muhyiddin, a longtime politician, was appointed deputy prime minister when Najib took power in 2009, but was sacked in 2015 after he criticized Najib’s handling of the 1MDB scandal.
Bersatu teamed up with PH under a deal that Mahathir would eventually hand over power to his former rival Anwar Ibrahim. Mahathir has said he felt betrayed by Muhyiddin, accusing him of scheming with UMNO for a long time.
By The Associated Press.