Malaysia’s shaky government dodges a no-confidence motion

May 21, 2020

IT WAS THE shortest session on record. Malaysia’s MPs convened on May 18th to hear a speech from the king (pictured). No sooner had he finished than they adjourned until July. The official reason for the brevity was to avoid spreading covid-19. But the brisk timetable also thwarted plans to hold a vote of no confidence in the prime minister, Muhyiddin Yassin.

Mr Muhyiddin only took the job on March 1st and has yet to prove his government’s majority in parliament. His uncertain standing stems from the peculiar manner of his ascent. The previous government, led by Mahathir Mohamad, had fallen when two of its constituent parties split. Factions from both Keadilan, the biggest party in the outgoing government, and Bersatu, the party of both Dr Mahathir and Mr Muhyiddin, decided to form a new majority by aligning with the opposition. Mr Muhyiddin sided with the renegades.

Since he took the top job Mr Muhyiddin has had a tough time of it. Malaysia is battling more than 7,000 cases of covid-19 and has imposed a lengthy “movement control order” to slow its spread. There is not enough money to repair the damage. Although the government’s relief package has a notional value of more than 16% of GDP, it is only boosting spending by around 2% of GDP immediately.

To stay in office Mr Muhyiddin needs the backing of at least 112...

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