As Muhyiddin gets ready to take over, a divided country awaits

Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia president Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin celebrates after being appointed as Malaysia’s 8th Prime Minister in front of his house in Bukit Damansara February 29, 2020. — Picture by Firdaus Latif
Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia president Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin celebrates after being appointed as Malaysia’s 8th Prime Minister in front of his house in Bukit Damansara February 29, 2020. — Picture by Firdaus Latif

KUALA LUMPUR, March 1 — Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin is expected to be sworn in as prime minister today, but the ceremony is unlikely to heal the wounds that have divided the nation following the resignation of Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

While his coalition has united the Malay political forces of Umno, PAS and Bersatu, it also has its work cut out in winning over the significantly large number of Malaysians who must surely have been sickened by the events of the past week.

He will have to build bridges especially with those who were not supportive of his coalition.

Supporters have called for calm and for Malaysians to respect the decision of the King yesterday to name him as the man who is likely to command the majority of Parliament.

He will need to quickly win over detractors and build bridges even within his own party after some Bersatu MPs claimed last night they did not declare for him.

Of Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia's original 25 MPs, at least six of them claimed last night that they backed Dr Mahathir.

There were also claims that the party's Supreme Council was not behind the decision to name him as prime minister.

With Syed Saddiq Abdul Rahman one of the six who disagreed with Muhyiddin as prime minister, and leading his Youth wing to stay with that stance, it remains to be seen how long Muhyiddin can keep his fledgling party from tearing apart — barring a purge of his critics.

Muhyiddin will also have to face demands from his own partners.

There are four distinct groups who will be vying for a seat at the table in his administration.

While they all represent Malay-Muslim interests, the Azmin Ali faction, Umno, PAS, and his own party will want seats in his Cabinet.

But above all, his administration will have its work cut out in trying to convince the significantly large population of the country who would have been sickened by the turn of events in the past week.

Nearly 50 per cent of Malaysians voted for Pakatan Harapan(PH) parties largely because of anger over Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s 1MDB scandal.

Now less than two years later, PH is without Bersatu, and many Umno MPs — some of whom are on trial for corruption — will be part of the ruling coalition.

The Pagoh MP will now have build bridges with stakeholders — from the business community to the civil service, but most importantly with the civil societies which had worked hard to mobilise the voters resulting in the fall of BN in 2018, only to see their work come to naught now.

But after a week of twists and turns, Muhyiddin will just be relieved to be sworn in as PM today.

He will celebrate getting the top job after a long career in politics.

And then he will have to start work on repairing a divided Malaysia.

 

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