Battered by public anger at the Malaysian government’s handling of the coronavirus and recognizing that it had lost support from lawmakers, Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin and his entire cabinet resigned on Monday, ending a tumultuous 17-month government.
For now, Mr Muhyiddin will continue to guide the Southeast Asian country through the worst wave of the virus yet, as he stays on as interim prime minister until a successor is named. The king said the country would not hold elections during the pandemic, leading him to nominate the next leader, according to Reuters.
The resignation plunged Malaysia even deeper into political turmoil as it faces one of the world’s worst outbreaks of the virus. The country of about 32 million people has had an average of more than 20,000 cases per day in the past 14 days, and only 33 percent of the population is fully vaccinated, according to a NewsMadura database. The total death toll from the pandemic in the country is at least 12,510.
According to The Straits Times, Mr Muhyiddin promised in a nationally televised speech that the entire population would be vaccinated by the end of October.
He also said he accepted that he had lost political support. “I will not conspire with kleptocrats, interfere with the judiciary or turn my back on the constitution to stay in power,” he said.
Mr Muhyiddin took power in March 2020 when Mahathir Mohamad, 94, was ousted two years after he was elected prime minister. Mr Muhyiddin, a veteran nationalist politician, aligned himself with a scandal-stained governing coalition that had dominated the country for more than 60 years before Mr Mahathir’s electoral success.
Mr Muhyiddin took over the pandemic by a thin majority as the coronavirus crisis began to roar, using the pandemic to limit opponents’ ability to organize and challenge his power. But calls for his resignation grew stronger as the country issued multiple lockdown orders, botched vaccine rollouts and suffered widespread hunger.