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A protester holds a cut-out of new Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin during a demonstration. A protester holds a cut-out of the new prime minister, Muhyiddin Yassin, in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Feb. 29, 2020 (AP photo by Vincent Thian).

Is Malaysia’s Democratic Experiment Imploding?

Friday, March 13, 2020

Less than two years after Malaysia’s landmark May 2018 election that ousted its long-ruling coalition, tensions within the government exploded into the open in recent weeks, upending the country’s politics. Nonagenarian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad resigned late last month in an apparent attempt to ditch most of his allies from the Pakatan Harapan coalition, which he had led to an upset victory against the scandal-plagued Barisan Nasional bloc in 2018, and form a new, essentially ethnic Malay government. It would have included his old party, the United Malays National Organization or UMNO, which led the Barisan Nasional during its six-decade rule, and the Islamist Malaysian Islamic Party, or PAS.

But other members of Pakatan Harapan fought back, and Mahahtir spent a week horse-trading with his erstwhile allies. It was left to Malaysia’s king to try and clarify the muddle, with suggestions that he would reappoint Mahathir as interim prime minister in preparation for snap elections. ...

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