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Malaysia’s political turmoil: Five things to know – Al Jazeera English



Embattled Malaysian Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin is expected to resign on Monday after a tumultuous 17 months in power marked by his government’s poor response to the COVID-19 pandemic and growing division within the ruling coalition, local media reports have said.

He is expected to inform the king of his decision after chairing his last cabinet meeting at 10am (02:00 GMT).

Muhyiddin, who has defied calls for him to step down, held a series of meetings with his party on Sunday after admitting in a televised address last week that he no longer had a majority to rule.

Afterwards, Mohamad Redzuan Yusof, a minister in the prime minister’s department, told online newspaper Malaysiakini that Muhyiddin had told the party he planned to resign the following day.

The political upheaval comes amid rising public anger at the continued surge in coronavirus cases despite months of various levels of lockdown.

Many Malaysians blame the government for spending too much time on politics and not enough time governing.

Some 12,510 people have died from the disease as overloaded government hospitals struggle to cope.

On Sunday, Malaysia recorded 20,546 cases on Sunday, its fourth successive day of more than 20,000 cases.

Who is Muhyiddin Yassin?

Muhyiddin, 74, is a veteran politician who began his career with the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) before jumping ship amid the tumult of the multibillion-dollar 1MDB scandal in 2015.

He became prime minister in March 2020, after a week of political turmoil triggered by a power grab within the then-ruling Pakatan Harapan coalition that led to the resignation of his predecessor, Mahathir Mohamad.

Following days of uncertainty, Muhyiddin convinced the king he had sufficient support among members of parliament to form an administration.

His Perikatan Nasional (PN) coalition included his own Bersatu party – without founder Mahathir and his supporters – defectors from the previous administration’s Parti Keadilan Rakyat, as well as UMNO, Parti Islam Se Malaysia or PAS, the country’s Islamic party, and GPS, the ruling party in the Borneo state of Sarawak.

Muhyiddin’s cabinet included 70 people, the largest in Malaysian history, with four “senior ministers”. Some politicians were also appointed to prominent roles in government-linked businesses.

Muhyiddin was appointed prime minister after convincing the king he had a majority in parliament [File: Lim Huey Teng/Reuters]

What went wrong?

Muhyiddin’s support and legitimacy have been questioned ever since he came to power.

As a result of a pandemic lockdown, it was not until July 2020 that parliament sat for the first time following the change in government. Muhyiddin survived a delayed budget vote with a majority of just two.

Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim has claimed a number of times he has the support to rule but it is UMNO that has proved to be Muhyiddin’s biggest headache.

Part of the country’s political landscape since it was founded in 1946, the PN-era saw an emerging split in the party’s upper echelons.

While those holding prominent positions in the cabinet backed the status quo, other senior members – including UMNO President Ahmad Zahid Hamidi and former Prime Minister Najib Razak – were more critical. Zahid is on trial on a slew of corruption charges while Najib was found guilty in the first of a series of 1MDB-linked trials in 2020.

Since September last year, the party has announced its withdrawal of support for Muhyiddin a number of times.

In July, hours before Zahid was expected to announce the party would no longer back him, Muhyiddin promoted Ismail Sabri Yaacob and Hishammuddin Hussein, the two most prominent UMNO politicians in his cabinet to senior roles. Sabri was named deputy prime minister.

What about COVID-19?

Shortly after taking power, Muhyiddin imposed a strict lockdown that proved largely effective in controlling the coronavirus.

Restrictions were slowly lifted and in July 2020, the country announced zero cases.

Malaysia’s death toll from the coronavirus pandemic has reached 12,510 as hospitals are pushed to the limit and more patients forced to isolate at home [File: Fazry Ismail/EPA]

But an outbreak had begun to pick up in the Borneo state of Sabah, where PN politicians began to move against the state government – aligned to the previous Pakatan Harapan administration.

A state election was called for September and politicians flew backwards and forwards between Sabah and Kuala Lumpur without being required to quarantine.

The result was a surge in cases that led to new restrictions being imposed in October. The rules were relaxed again just before the Christmas and New Year holidays – a popular time for travel in Malaysia – and in January cases surged again.

Muhyiddin, under increasing pressure politically, then announced he had secured the king’s backing for a state of emergency in order to battle the pandemic. The decision also suspended parliament.

Since then, cases have continued to rise, triggering what Muhyiddin called a “total lockdown” in June when the country was reporting 7,000 cases a day.

The prolonged disruption to business and schooling, coupled with a lack of financial support, has heightened anger among many Malaysians.

There have been protests by young people, a strike by junior doctors and a grassroots campaign to provide assistance to those most in need.

“It is evident that the current strategy is not working, and the current administration has failed,” IMAN, a Malaysian think-tank, said in a statement on Sunday. “A new strategy and a new leadership are urgently needed.”

One of the few bright spots, has been a noticeable acceleration in the country’s vaccination programme following a sluggish start. Some 32.9 percent of the population have now had two shots, according to the government.

Malaysians take part in a rare anti-government rally in Kuala Lumpur on July 31, 2021, despite a tough COVID-19 coronavirus lockdown in place restricting gatherings and public assemblies {File: Arif Kartono/ AFP]

Who could take over?

It is not clear who could emerge as the country’s next prime minister, given the fluid state of political loyalties.

The ructions could see UMNO’s return to pole position.

Among those in the frame are Ismail Sabri, despite his prominent role in handling the pandemic.

Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah, a veteran UMNO leader, is also said to be a possibility.

On the opposition side, Anwar Ibrahim, may see this as his last chance to be prime minister, a position which has long eluded him.

Rather than focussing on who should be the next prime minister, the opposition Democratic Action Party (DAP) said politicians should be looking at an effective COVID-19 ‘reset plan’, measures to support the economy and institutional reform.

What about the king’s role?

Malaysia has a unique system of monarchy where the role of king is rotated every five years among the nine Malay sultans.

The current monarch, King Al-Sultan Abdullah, is from the central state of Pahang and took the throne in 2019.

It is a constitutional monarchy, but the king has become increasingly prominent since Muhyiddin took charge.

He met each member of parliament individually before being convinced Muhyiddin had the support to form a government but also rejected Muhyiddin’s first request for an emergency last year.

In June, amid the deepening COVID-19 crisis and continued political manoeuvring, he called for parliament to sit “as soon as possible”, repeating the call two weeks later.

Malaysia has a consitutional moinarch but the king has taken a more prominent role during months of political uncertainty [File: Fazry Ismail/EPA]

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Meng Wangzhou believed to have left Canada after B.C. court drops extradition case –



A plane believed to be carrying Chinese tech executive Meng Wangzhou took off from the Vancouver airport on Friday, marking a new stage in a legal saga that ensnared Canada — and two of its citizens — in a dispute between the U.S. and Chinese governments.

A B.C. court decided on Friday that the extradition case against Meng would be dropped after the Huawei chief financial officer reached a deferred prosecution agreement with the U.S. government.

Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig, the two Canadian citizens who were detained in China just days after Meng’s arrest in Vancouver, are now on their way back Canada, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau confirmed on Friday evening.

Meng’s deal with U.S. prosecutors resolved the charges against the Huawei executive.

The agreement set in motion Meng’s departure from Canada after she had spent nearly three years under house arrest. The plane that departed Vancouver is an Air China charter destined for Shenzhen, the southern Chinese city where Huawei has its headquarters.

As part of her arrangement with U.S. prosecutors, Meng pleaded not guilty in a court Friday to multiple fraud charges.

The Huawei chief financial officer entered the plea during a virtual appearance in a New York courtroom. She was charged with bank fraud, wire fraud and conspiracies to commit bank and wire fraud more than two and a half years ago.

David Kessler, an attorney with the United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York, told the court the deferred prosecution agreement (DPA) will last four years — from the time of her arrest on Dec. 1, 2018, to Dec. 1, 2022.

Kessler said that if Meng complies with her obligations, the U.S. will move to dismiss the charges against her at the end of the deferral period. If she doesn’t, she can still be prosecuted.

WATCH | Meng Wangzhou speaks following her B.C. court apperance

Huawei chief financial officer makes a statement after leaving the B.C. Supreme Court

5 hours ago

Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou spoke to reporters outside a courthouse in Vancouver after extradition proceedings against her were dropped. Meng had earlier appeared by video in a U.S. court and pleaded not guilty to charges of fraud as part of a deferred prosecution agreement with the U.S. government. 3:32

The agreed statement of facts from Friday’s U.S. court appearance said that Meng told a global financial institution that a company operating in Iran in violation of U.S. sanctions was a “local partner” of Huawei when in fact it was a subsidiary of Huawei.

“In entering into the deferred prosecution agreement, Meng has taken responsibility for her principal role in perpetrating a scheme to defraud a global financial institution,” Acting U.S. Attorney Nicole Boeckmann said in a statement.

‘Sorry for the inconvenience caused,’ Meng says

Later Friday afternoon, B.C. Supreme Court Associate Chief Justice Heather Holmes officially ended the Canadian proceedings, signing an order to discharge the U.S. extradition request and vacate Meng’s bail conditions.

She addressed Meng directly before ending a hearing that lasted less than 15 minutes.

“You have been cooperative and courteous throughout the proceedings and the court appreciates and thanks you for that,” Holmes said.

Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou reads a statement outside the B.C. Supreme Court following the conclusion of her extradition hearing. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Outside the court, Meng read from prepared remarks while flanked by her legal team. She thanked Holmes for her “fairness” during the proceedings.

“I also appreciate the court for their professionalism and the Canadian government for upholding the rule of law,” Meng said.

“I’m also grateful to the Canadian people and media friends for your tolerance. Sorry for the inconvenience caused.”

‘Meng Wanzhou is free to leave Canada’

In a media statement issued this evening, the federal Department of Justice confirmed that “Meng Wanzhou is free to leave Canada.”

“Canada is a rule of law country,” says the statement. “Meng Wanzhou was afforded a fair process before the courts in accordance with Canadian law. This speaks to the independence of Canada’s judicial system.”

U.S. prosecutors also credited the Canadian justice system for its commitment to the legal process.

“We are enormously grateful to Canada’s Department of Justice for its dedicated work on this extradition and for its steadfast adherence to the rule of law,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Mark J. Lesko.

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Renzo to Head KCL's Centre for Politics, Philosophy and Law – Daily Nous



Massimo Renzo has been appointed as the new Yeoh Tiong Lay Chair and Director of the Yeoh Tiong Lay Centre for Politics, Philosophy and Law at King’s College London (KCL).

Professor Renzo, previously a professor of Politics, Law, and Philosophy at KCL and the acting director of the Yeoh Centre, was selected for the endowed chair and directorship following an open search to fill the position. He works in legal, moral and political philosophy, and has written on topics such as political authority, just war, humanitarian intervention, human rights, philosophy of criminal law, consent, and manipulation, among others. You can browse his writings here.

The Yeoh Centre was founded in 2014 with the aim of exploring “major issues in law and politics through the lens of philosophy.” Its previous director was John Tasioulas (Oxford). You can learn more about it here.

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Politics Briefing: Quebec introduces legislation to ban pandemic-related protests near hospitals, other facilities – The Globe and Mail




Quebec’s Premier says he is taking a cautious approach to proceeding with legislation to outlaw COVID-19-related protests within 50 metres of hospitals, vaccination sites and testing centres, among other facilities.

“It’s never easy to say you cannot go on the street,” Premier François Legault told a news conference on Thursday, responding to a media question about why he had decided to proceed now with Bill 105.

The legislation, with details on prospective fines, was tabled Thursday by the province’s Public Security Minister Geneviève Guilbault in response to recent anti-vaccine protests outside such facilities.

“It’s not something that you can do every day. You have to be careful. We want to make sure that people will not win, trying to say that the law is unacceptable, and we cannot enforce it,” said Mr. Legault.

“We wanted to do it correctly and I think that also we need to have the support of all the other parties, and I think that it’s the right time.”

Provisions of the bill will cease to have effect when the public health emergency declared in March, 2020, ends.

More details on the legislation here.

This is the daily Politics Briefing newsletter, written by Ian Bailey. It is available exclusively to our digital subscribers. If you’re reading this on the web, subscribers can sign up for the Politics newsletter and more than 20 others on our newsletter signup page. Have any feedback? Let us know what you think.


TRUDEAU FACES CABINET CHALLENGES – Justin Trudeau will have to contend with the defeat of three female cabinet ministers as he crafts his senior leadership team in what’s expected to be a quick return to governing. Two senior government officials told The Globe and Mail Mr. Trudeau will outline his government’s next steps once Elections Canada has finalized the seat counts, which could be as early as Thursday. Story here.

QUESTIONS RAISED ABOUT O’TOOLE LEADERSHIP – In the first public challenge to Erin O’Toole from within his own ranks, a member of the Conservative Party’s national council says the Tory Leader should face an accelerated leadership review for “betraying” members during the election campaign.

LIMITED DIVERSITY IN TORY CAUCUS – CBC has crunched the the numbers, and concluded that the vast majority of the MPs making up the new Conservative caucus — nearly 95 per cent — are white, even as the country’s racial makeup is diversifying. Before this election, 9 per cent of Tory MPs were BIPOC. Story here,

LPC CANDIDATE ACCUSED OF TAKING RIVAL PAMPHLET – A Calgary resident says he has doorbell security camera footage showing Liberal candidate George Chahal, the night before the election, approach his house in the Calgary Skyview riding and remove an opponent’s campaign flyer before replacing it with one of his own. He posted the footage to Facebook, which has now received thousands of views. Story here.

FORMER LPC CANDIDATE TO SERVE AS INDEPENDENT – Kevin Vuong, who won the Toronto riding of Spadina-Fort York as a Liberal candidate, said he will serve as an Independent MP, days after his party said he will not sit as a member of the caucus. Story here.

TWITTER BERNIER BAN – Twitter restricted People’s Party of Canada Leader Maxime Bernier’s account, preventing him from posting any new messages for 12 hours after he used the platform to encourage his supporters to “play dirty” with journalists covering his campaign. From CBC. Story here.


KENNEY FENDS OFF LEADERSHIP CHALLENGE – Jason Kenney appears to have quelled another challenge from within his own caucus. A non-confidence vote against the Alberta Premier was withdrawn on Wednesday, but he committed to an earlier-than-planned leadership review, to be held well in advance of Alberta’s 2023 general election. Don Braid of The Calgary Herald writes here on how Mr. Kenney survived this fight against his leadership.

NEW CHARGES AGAINST FORMER SNC-LAVALIN EXECS – SNC-Lavalin Group Inc. and two of its former executives are facing new criminal charges related to a bridge contract in Montreal nearly 20 years ago, plunging the Canadian engineering giant into another legal maelstrom as it tries to rebuild its business after years of crisis. Story here.

FORD LOOKING FOR CHILDCARE DEAL – Ontario Premier Doug Ford says he wants to make a child-care deal with the federal government. The province has acknowledged it was in discussions with Ottawa about a potential agreement into the last hours before the federal election was called in August.


“Private meetings,” according to an advisory from the Prime Minister’s Office.


No schedules released for party leaders.


Andrew Coyne (The Globe and Mail) on whether this is the end of majority governments in Canada:But in Canada, for one reason or another, the grip of two-party politics has been broken – irrevocably, it seems. As a result, something else that is not supposed to happen under first past the post has been happening, with remarkable frequency: minority governments. This is not just the second straight federal election to produce a Parliament without a majority party: it is the fifth in the past seven, 11th in the past 22.”

Lawrence Martin (The Globe and Mail) on why, if any federal leader should be stepping down, it’s the likeable Jagmeet Singh: ‘Strange business, politics. While a bit short of a majority, Justin Trudeau wins a third successive election by a large margin in the seat count. Yet some critics say he should be put out to pasture. NDP leader Jagmeet Singh suffered a drubbing in the 2019 election, losing almost half his party’s seats. With much higher expectations, he did badly again in Monday’s vote, electing (pending mail-in vote counts) only one more member. Yet hardly anyone says a word.”

Robyn Urback (The Globe and Mail) on why the knives are out for Erin O’Toole, but not Jagmeet Singh: “Theoretically, Mr. O’Toole and NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh should be in the same boat. Both failed to channel national frustration over a pandemic election call and turn it into material support; both delivered underwhelming results. But Mr. Singh, who led a campaign that saw the party claim 25 seats as of this writing – just one more than it held before – doesn’t appear to be in immediate jeopardy of losing his job. The saga of former NDP leader Tom Mulcair, who was turfed by his party when the NDP won 44 seats in 2015 (that is, about 75 per cent better than it did on Monday), offers an explanation for why.”

Jen Gerson (Maclean’s) on why Tories should not “do that stupid thing” they’re thinking of doing: “If you dump your affable, moderate, centrist leader at the first opportunity because he didn’t crack the 905 on his first try, and you replace him with someone who will chase Maxime Bernier’s vanishing social movement like a labradoodle running after the wheels of a mail truck, you will wind up confirming every extant fear and stereotype this crowd already holds about you and your party.”

Steve Paikin (TVO) on advice for Justin Trudeau, inspired by the political experiences of former Ontario premier Bill Davis: I think if Davis were still alive, he’d tell the current Prime Minister: “A lot of people are underestimating you right now. They think you’re damaged because you called this snap election, and it didn’t work out as you’d hoped. Well, I’ve been there. My advice, Prime Minister, is to reach out. Be more collegial and less ideological and adversarial. Establish a good working relationship with your opponents.”

Send along your political questions and we will look at getting answers to run in this newsletter. It’s not possible to answer each one personally. Questions and answers will be edited for length and clarity.

Got a news tip that you’d like us to look into? E-mail us at Need to share documents securely? Reach out via SecureDrop

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