New Muhyiddin Cabinet to see ‘out of the box’ approach in executive structure

Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin will name the members of his Cabinet today.

KUALA LUMPUR: Extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures – Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin made this phrase his rule of thumb throughout several days of negotiations and brainstorming sessions with political advisers, aides and experts in governance on the composition of his much-anticipated Cabinet.

FMT can now reveal based on information from sources that the new Cabinet will see a “new school of thought in the executive branch” – to quote a highly reliable source who is well-informed on the discussions of the past few days – with a structure designed to survive political crises.

“It is unprecedented, at least for Malaysia, though successful experiments have been made in a neighbouring country to ensure a strong government that can deliver,” the source told FMT following a round of “very confidential” meetings late last night.

It said the unconventional structure would allow some form of flexibility in filling up ministries that require expertise, “unlike the past practice which allowed some rookies to helm important portfolios”.

DPM’s post vacant

But at the centre of the new face of the executive is a plan to leave the key post of deputy prime minister vacant.

“There is unanimous agreement that the Number 2 post is a hot potato, and had many times triggered political crises in the last three decades. It’s certainly something that can be done away with at a time when the need for political stability trumps everything else,” the source told FMT.

It is understood that at least four ministers who served under Pakatan Harapan (PH) are expected to return to their previous portfolios, including those among the dozen or so PKR MPs who joined PPBM alongside Mohamed Azmin Ali.

FMT has learnt that Muhyiddin, who was sworn in as the eighth prime minister on March 1 after a week of political turmoil following the collapse of the PH government, will today brief more than 115 MPs under the newly formed Perikatan Nasional coalition on his new Cabinet plan.

The line-up of ministers, to be announced today, will be presented to the Agong later this morning.

Over the weekend, several Umno leaders had called for their president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi to be made part of the Cabinet, despite Muhyiddin publicly stating that those facing corruption charges will not be considered.

Information obtained by FMT confirms that Zahid and his predecessor Najib Razak will not be in the line-up, “neither will Ku Nan and Azeez”, according to the source, referring to former federal territories minister Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor and former Tabung Haji chairman who is also Baling MP, Abdul Azeez Abdul Rahim.

All four are facing corruption and power abuse charges, with Zahid topping the number of charges.

Swaying fence-sitters

Since taking over the top post, Muhyiddin has pledged not to include those facing graft and other criminal charges in his administration.

A senior member of PPBM told FMT that the move to exclude these leaders had not been easy, and there was always a fear that the fragile coalition could be rattled.

“Furthermore, Muhyiddin cannot escape bringing in some leaders from the old Barisan Nasional (BN) government to fulfil his part of the deal in Perikatan Nasional,” he said, referring to the coalition made up of PPBM, BN, PAS and GPS.

He said naming his ministers was as important as his declaration that he was a “prime minister for all”.

“Ensuring that the main faces of the pre-May 2018 BN won’t be there is Muhyiddin’s first battle.

“That will convince not only diehard PH fans, but also Mahathir, whose support for Muhyiddin seems to rest on this condition.

“And it will also sway fence-sitters and other PH MPs into entering Muhyiddin’s fold,” it added.

Yesterday, Mahathir, whose support may be crucial to the inclusion of some form of stability in Malaysia’s politics, said he would consider meeting Muhyiddin only if there were no “corrupt Umno leaders” in his new government.

“If he is willing to throw (away) all these people, then (we) can meet. Even that, I will have to consider it first,” Mahathir said in Langkawi.

Whether or not the new executive structure can work will depend largely on whether it can remove the fear of another government collapsing.

For now, the unprecedented political crisis may just have given birth a new school of thought in reconciling politics and government in Malaysia.