‘Malay first’ – Malaysia’s Muhyiddin allies with nationalists to become PM

Former deputy PM Muhyiddin Yassin beats Mahathir and Anwar with support from opposition parties/Nikkei Asia

Former Malaysian interior minister Muhyiddin Yassin will be sworn in as the country’s next prime minister on Sunday after he secured support from a Malay nationalist party that sacked him in 2015.

Here are some facts about Muhyiddin, 72, who is from the majority Malay Muslim community and once courted controversy in the multi-racial country by saying that he was Malay first.

  • Muhyiddin is from the southern state of Johor, neighbouring Singapore, where he was chief minister for almost nine years.
  • His father was an influential religious teacher in his hometown. Graduated from the University of Malaya in 1970 in Economics and Malay Studies.
  • He is the president of Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu), which he started in 2016 and is now chaired by Mahathir.
  • Formerly he was with the United Malays National Organization (UMNO), the long-ruling establishment party that was defeated in the last general election. He joined it in 1971. Muhyiddin will be Malaysia’s 8th prime minister with support from UMNO.
  • He was deputy prime minister between April 2009 and July 2015 before being sacked and thrown out of UMNO for questioning former Prime Minister Najib Razak’s handling of a multi-billion-dollar scandal at state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).
  • In 2010, he said: “I am a Malay first, I want to say that. But being Malay does not mean you are not a Malaysian”.
  • In 2018, Muhyiddin was diagnosed with early-stage pancreatic cancer. Mahathir had taken charge of the home affairs ministry as he sought treatment.
  • He tends to keep a low profile and a person who knows him well says he is very close to his family.

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Keshava Parthasarthy

Keshava Parthasarthy is the Managing Editor at The Kootneeti

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