The crisis in Malaysia: a Muslim view from Canada

In a surprise move on Feb 24, Dr Mahathir Mohamad suddenly announced his resignation as the prime minister, leading to speculation about what would happen in Malaysia now.

No party or group of parties has enough seats in parliament to form a government.

Thus, under Malaysia’s constitution the king has to either ask a political leader to form another government or call for snap elections.

Many analysts view Mahathir’s move as Machiavellian. He acted to prevent his coalition partner Anwar Ibrahim from becoming the prime minister.

Our sources in Malaysia say one of the perspectives is that Mahathir’s move was a “Game of Thrones”-type political ploy to finally break loose from his political coalition.

Mahathir also resigned as head of his political party, the Malaysian United Indigenous Party, thus becoming “interim prime minister” without obligation to any political party.

He can now nominate ministers of his own choosing.

He could rationalise his current moves in terms of needing more authority and power to steer the much-needed economic and political reforms without being held back by party politics in implementing his vision.

It should be remembered that during the economic crisis of 1997-98, he refused to go to the IMF for a bailout package.

Instead, he imposed strict capital controls and pegged the dollar at RM3.80.

At the time, he was criticised for his unconventional move, but within a year Malaysian GDP bounced back and in 1999 the economic growth was 4.8%.

Further, Anwar, Mahathir’s opponent and a recent coalition partner, has close links to the US-based National Endowment for Democracy (NED).

According to, NED “openly documented its financial and political support for the group on its official website… Ibrahim himself has maintained close ties to Washington and Wall Street. Not only has his Bersih movement been fully backed by NED and its subsidiaries, but he himself was literally in Washington DC in person, attending various NED functions. This includes serving as a panelist for NED’s ‘Democracy Award’ and a panelist at a NED donation ceremony – the very same US organisation funding and supporting his Bersih street movement – casting irrefutable doubt on their official agenda for ‘clean and fair elections’.”

While people might disagree with some of the policies of Mahathir, overall, his political course is not directed by Washington’s agenda.

This does not mean that he is completely free of any links to Washington, but his ultimate vision for Malaysia is not dictated by the US.

In December 2019, Malaysia organised the KL Summit “specifically to address the state of affairs of the Muslim Ummah.”

Such a move challenges Washington’s political influence in the Muslim world as it sidelines the Saudi regime that acts as agent of imperialism and Zionism.

Zafar Bangash, a journalist with more than four decades’ experience, heads the Canada-based Institute of Contemporary Islamic Thought, a think tank that studies contemporary developments in Muslim countries.

The views expressed are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.