Battered by public anger over the Malaysian government’s handling of the coronavirus and acknowledging he had lost the support of lawmakers, Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin and his entire cabinet resigned on Monday, signaling an end to a tumultuous 17-month reign.
For now, Mr. Muhyiddin will continue to steer the Southeast Asian country through its worst wave of the virus yet, as he will stay on as interim premier until a successor is appointed. The king said that the country would not hold an election during the pandemic, leaving him to appoint the next leader, according to Reuters.
The resignations plunged Malaysia even deeper into political turmoil while it contends with one of the world’s worst surges of the virus. The nation of about 32 million people has averaged more than 20,000 cases per day in the last 14 days, and just 33 percent of the population is fully vaccinated, according to a New York Times database. The total death toll from the pandemic in the country is at least 12,510.
Mr. Muhyiddin pledged in a nationally televised address that the entire population would be vaccinated by the end of October, according to The Straits Times.
He also said that he accepted he had lost political support. “I will not conspire with kleptocrats, or interfere with the judiciary or turn my back on the Constitution to stay in power,” he said.
Mr. Muhyiddin assumed power in March 2020 when Mahathir Mohamad, 94, was ousted two years after he had been voted in as prime minister. A veteran nationalist politician, Mr. Muhyiddin was aligned with a scandal-tainted governing coalition that had dominated the country for more than 60 years before Mr. Mahathir’s election success.
Taking over with a thin majority as the coronavirus crisis began to roar, Mr. Muhyiddin used the pandemic to limit the ability of opponents to organize and challenge his power. But calls for his resignation gathered force as the country issued multiple lockdown orders, botched its vaccine rollout and endured widespread hunger.