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Malaysian PM quits and accuses rivals of pandemic power-grab

Malaysia's Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin has quit after losing majority support in parliament but is set to remain as interim leader until a replacement is found.

Malaysia‘s Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin has quit after losing majority support in parliament but is set to remain as interim leader until a replacement is found.

In a televised speech, Muhyiddin on Monday defended his record and accused rivals of trying to use the pandemic to seize power.

The now-caretaker premier claimed his attempts to deal with the pandemic and to remain in office “did not work” because of “parties who were greedy to grab power, rather than prioritizing your lives and livelihoods.”

Muhyiddin had in recent weeks come under heavy pressure to resign over his response to the coronavirus pandemic, with record death and hospitalization numbers being reported despite three months of lockdown.

Opposition parties had been joined by some members of the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), the party of deputy premier Ismail Sabri Yaakob, in demanding Muhyiddin resign.

Confirming that Muhyiddin could stay on as caretaker premier, King Abdullah said staging parliamentary elections now “would not be the best decision based on factors concerning the welfare and safety of the [people]” due to the pandemic.

Elections are due by May 2023 at the latest, but Muhyiddin last week said they could be held by July next year.

Muhyiddin had been due to face a confidence vote in parliament next month after coming under fierce criticism over his pandemic response.

Despite the government imposing a third lockdown in May, daily coronavirus case numbers have increased five-fold to around 20,000 while the country’s economy took another heavy hit after a 5.6-per-cent contraction last year.

Gross domestic product shrank by 2 per cent in the second quarter of 2021, measured against the first three months of the year, according to official estimates announced last week.

Muhyiddin last year emerged as Malaysia‘s eighth prime minister in the wake of a week-long power struggle following the resignation of his predecessor Mahathir Mohamad.

He had also come under pressure to quit after the king recently accused the government of keeping him in the dark about plans to revoke decrees imposed during eight months of emergency rule, which ended in August.

While the king’s role is mostly ceremonial, his sign-off is needed for anything to do with a state of emergency.

Muhyiddin said he had stuck to the rules but was accused in turn by opposition leaders and some of his own supporters of insulting the monarchy.

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