Malaysia swears in new prime minister as Mahathir forced out

Malaysia’s Muhyiddin Yassin, a Malay nationalist politician backed by the corruption-tarnished former ruling party, was sworn in as prime minister on Sunday after the king picked him to replace 94-year-old Mahathir Mohamad.

Muhyiddin Yassin takes oath during the swearing-in ceremony as the 8th prime minister of Malaysia in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, March 1, 2020. Malaysia Information Department/Maszuandi Adnan/Handout via REUTERS
The swearing-in capped a week of turmoil that began with Mahathir’s resignation in an apparent bid to consolidate power, but ended with him sidelined and complaining of betrayal after decades dominating Malaysian politics.

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Mahathir promised to seek a vote in parliament to challenge Muhyiddin’s support, but conceded he might not win.

Muhyiddin, 72, was sworn in at a palace ceremony in front of Malaysia’s king, Sultan Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah, and promised to fulfil his duties as prime minister. His office said he would start work there on Monday morning, but made no further comment.

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The change in leadership comes less than two years after Mahathir joined old rival Anwar Ibrahim, 72, to defeat the ruling party of six decades, the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), on an anti-corruption platform.

“This is a very strange thing,” said Mahathir. “This is the losers that will form the government,” he added, referring to the outcome of the 2018 election.

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He said he had the support of 114 of parliament’s 222 members, but it was not guaranteed that they would all support him should it come to a vote.

In a sign of support drifting away, a later statement from his Pakatan coalition said 112 lawmakers supported convening parliament as scheduled on March 9. The New Straits Times quoted the parliament speaker as saying the date would depend on the new prime minister, but it would probably be later.

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