A Weakened Mahathir Seeks to Challenge Malaysia’s New Leader

(Bloomberg) -- Malaysia’s former leader Mahathir Mohamad took an initial step toward challenging his former ally Muhyiddin Yassin, who emerged as prime minister following a weeklong power struggle in February.

Parliament’s speaker accepted his request to start a motion of no confidence against Muhyiddin at a future session, according to a statement from the speaker. Parliament is set to convene for a one-day sitting on May 18, with opposition parties and rights groups calling for the session to be extended.

A representative for Muhyiddin didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Mahathir’s abrupt resignation in February led to the collapse of the reformist government less than two years after a stunning election win against a bloc that had ruled Malaysia for about six decades. Muhyiddin, who has long served at his side, emerged as the new premier backed by a bloc including key political parties that lost power in 2018 -- a move Mahathir called a betrayal.

Mahathir protested Muhyiddin’s appointment at the time and gathered signatures from lawmakers to show he had the backing of a majority in parliament, but it came too late. Weeks later, Mahathir said the opposition coalition -- with the backing of about 108 lawmakers out of the total 222 -- lacked the support needed to remove the current government.

Mahathir has only appeared to lose support since then. His long-time rival Anwar Ibrahim declared that he was the formal opposition leader, instead of Mahathir, and said in April that he was willing to delay a motion of no confidence to ensure lawmakers could first focus on discussing policies to contain the coronavirus pandemic and revive the economy.

Muhyiddin is set to end an almost two month-long lockdown meant to contain the spread of the virus while rolling out a 260 billion ringgit ($60 billion) stimulus to bolster growth, policies that his administration implemented without a debate in parliament.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

BQ Install

Bloomberg Quint

Add BloombergQuint App to Home screen.