KUALA LUMPUR: Muhyiddin Yassin is almost certainly on the way to becoming Malaysia’s eighth prime minister following a meeting by 36 PPBM MPs today to nominate him for the top post after Istana Negara’s announcement that it would meet political leaders before making a decision.
The meeting today was also attended by PPBM’s 10 new MPs — the group of PKR MPs who quit the party following the sacking of its deputy president, Mohamed Azmin Ali.
About an hour later, PAS and Umno confirmed that all their 57 MPs would back the PPBM president. Both Umno secretary-general Annuar Musa and his PAS counterpart, Takiyuddin Hassan, have confirmed the support in a brief statement.
The latest development appears to be a blow to PKR president Anwar Ibrahim’s prime ministerial ambition.
FMT has been made to understand that the decision to nominate Muhyiddin has received the blessings of PPBM chairman Dr Mahathir Mohamad, despite initially clashing with the party president over the likelihood that some Umno leaders would be given senior posts in a new coalition government.
“Today’s decision brings to close days of cold war between Tun (Mahathir) and Muhyiddin,” a source close to the party’s inner circles said.
FMT earlier reported that Mahathir was unhappy with plans to appoint Umno president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi in the event of PPBM joining forces with Umno MPs to form a new coalition government.
“My position is I will not accept Umno, but I will accept those who leave Umno. But Muhyiddin is ready to accept them,” Mahathir had told reporters yesterday.
The veteran leader had made it clear that he would oppose any plan to bring in those slapped with corruption charges from being part of a new coalition.
Zahid is currently facing multiple charges of corruption involving millions of ringgit from Yayasan Akalbudi, his charity foundation.
A key PPBM leader refused to comment when asked whether Umno MPs would support Muhyiddin for prime minister if their party’s president is not given the number two post.
“Their only condition was ‘no DAP and Anwar’,” he said on condition of anonymity.
Both Muhyiddin and Zahid were part of the Najib Razak administration.
Following Muhyiddin’s fallout with Najib at the height of the 1MDB saga in 2015, Zahid was appointed as deputy prime minister.
After three years in the political wilderness, Muhyiddin made his political comeback after winning the Pagoh seat in the historic May 2018 elections, which saw Barisan Nasional’s fall from power.
But he was unable to perform his new duties as the home minister after being diagnosed with tumour in the pancreas. He underwent surgery in Singapore, after which he was subjected to rigorous chemotherapy treatment over a period of six months.
Muhyiddin, 73, is among the most senior politicians in Malaysia, having joined politics in his early 20s. His rise in Johor Umno was quick. In 1986, he was appointed as the Johor menteri besar, at a time when Mahathir was strongly entrenched in power at the federal level.
He was seen close to Anwar when the latter was the Umno Youth chief.
Muhyiddin backed Anwar as he climbed up the political ladder, until Anwar’s dramatic sacking in 1998 by Mahathir on allegations of sexual misconduct and abuse of power. Muhyiddin had briefly sympathised with Anwar, but quickly toed the line.
What followed was his slow rise in the federal government, until his sacking as the deputy prime minister, which saw him being reunited with his old ally, Anwar, under Pakatan Harapan.