Malaysia’s former Home Affairs Minister Muhyiddin Yassin was officially sworn-in as the nation’s eighth Prime Minister at the national palace, the Istana Negara, on Sun morning (1 Mar) after a week of political turmoil plaguing the country.
Mr Muhyiddin’s appointment as Prime Minister received royal assent from the Yang Di-Pertuan Agong yesterday, which the Istana Negara said was “in line with Article 40(2)(a) and Article 43(2)(a) of the Federal Constitution”.
Article 40(2)(a) provides for the Yang di-Pertuan Agong’s capacity to act according to his own discretion in appointing a prime minister, while Article 43(2)(a) provides for the Yang di-Pertuan Agong’s appointment of a Member of Parliament (MP) — who in his judgment is likely to command the confidence of the majority of MPs — as the prime minister.
Around two hours before Mr Muhyiddin’s swearing-in ceremony, his immediate predecessor Mahathir Mohamad told a press conference at the Albukhary Foundation in Kuala Lumpur that Mr Muhyiddin is not the right person to be sworn in, as Mr Muhyiddin allegedly did not command the support of the majority of the MPs in the Dewan Rakyat, the lower house of the Malaysian Parliament.
Dr Mahathir also said that the Yang di-Pertuan Agong has refused to grant him audience to prove his position that the Pakatan Harapan coalition and himself both command the support of the majority of the Dewan Rakyat.
The former premier last night released a list of 114 Members of Parliament (MPs) in support of his reappointment as the nation’s premier.
“The King has made a decision not to see me anymore but will appoint Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin as prime minister … So I do not have a chance to tell the King that [Muhyiddin] does not have the majority, that is the situation now. I cannot communicate with the Palace,” he said.
Dr Mahathir, however, said that he remains the chairman of the Bersatu party.
“He [Muhyiddin] has appointed himself as chairman in my absence which is totally illegal. It is not according to the constitution of Bersatu. But to him that is not important,” he said.
Stating that he feels Mr Muhyiddin has “betrayed” him, Dr Mahathir quoted a statement allegedly made to him by the new PM, in which Mr Muhyiddin said that “politics is more important than principle”.
In a televised address on Wed (26 Feb), Dr Mahathir as then-interim PM expressed his desire for a non-partisan government, marking the first time he had publically spoken on matters surrounding his resignation three days prior to his address.
The resignation, said Dr Mahathir, was “a means to an end” — namely the country’s betterment — as he feared the prospect of forming a government with Umno, a component party of the Barisan Nasional alliance that governed Malaysia for 61 years prior to its defeat to Pakatan Harapan in the 14th General Election in May 2018.
However, he said that he was willing to accept those who would leave Umno to join other political parties.
Mr Muhyiddin, a former Umno cadre, served as Malaysia’s deputy PM from Apr 2009 to Jul 2015 prior to being dismissed from both his position and the political party for publicly criticising then-PM Najib Razak’s handling of the multi-billion-dollar 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) scandal.
Following his exit from Umno, Mr Muhyiddin became one of the founding members of the Bersatu party, taking up the role of president alongside Dr Mahathir as the party chairman.
Bersatu’s alliance with other component parties under the Pakatan Harapan banner contributed to the coalition’s victory against the Barisan Nasional — the latter of whom had governed Malaysia for slightly over six decades — in the 14th General Election in May 2018.
Muhyiddin Yassin’s appointment as PM receives great backlash from M’sians online and offline
While he received praise for speaking out against corruption at the expense of being sacked from his post and Umno then, Mr Muhyiddin’s current appointment as PM has stirred discontent and anger among many members of the public.
Mr Muhyiddin was one of the PH politicians seen attending a political gathering at Sheraton Hotel in Petaling Jaya with opposition politicians from Umno and Parti Islam Se-Malaysia (PAS), as well as Azmin Ali’s PKR bloc.
Keywords and hashtags such as “traitor” and “#notmypm” began circulating on social media platforms such as Twitter mere hours after Mr Muhyiddin’s appointment was announced.
None of us voted for kleptocrats. None of us voted for criminals. We voted for a new dawn. We voted because we believed we could eradicate corruption in the system. We voted because we thought it would make a difference. We voted for a better Malaysia. Not this bullshit. #NotMyPM
— Sir Sexcalibur ???? (@NerwinNair3) February 29, 2020
This is a man who once said he’s Malay first and Malaysian second, never forget that #NotMyPM
— jayyyy (@jaymahen12) February 29, 2020
Two petitions were made to protest what the public has deemed to be “a betrayal of the trust and mandate of the Rakyat given to Pakatan Harapan leaders”.
“This is a selfish action to benefit a few elite groups to usurp the welfare and confidence of the Rakyat for a stable and peaceful Malaysia,” according to Chung Shin Ho, the creator of one of the petitions.
The petition on Change.org — which has garnered over 74,000 signatories as of 1.15 a.m. on Sun (1 Mar) — was endorsed by Mukhriz Mahathir, one of Dr Mahathir’s sons.
Many Malaysians had also stepped outside to gather at Dataran Merdeka in the capital city of Kuala Lumpur on Sat night, in a show of solidarity against the apparent lack of due democratic process leading up to Mr Muhyiddin’s appointment.
In spite of how bad the situation is, it's inspiring to see people turning out and using making themselves known.
— mikklebakk (@mikklebakk) February 29, 2020
Lawyer and National Human Rights Society (Hakam) chief Lim Wei Jiet yesterday told Astro Awani in an interview that it is possible for Dr Mahathir and the MPs supporting him to bring a challenge against the King’s decision to appoint Mr Muhyiddin as PM.
“I believe that any decision can be challenged in a court of law, notwithstanding the Yang di-Pertuan Agong’s decision … Going to court is an avenue,” he said, adding that Parliament is not the only channel through which the parties involved can seek recourse.