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Factbox-Possible candidates for new Malaysia PM

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By Reuters
Factbox-Possible candidates for new Malaysia PM
Factbox-Possible candidates for new Malaysia PM   -   Copyright  Thomson Reuters 2021

– Malaysia’s Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin resigned on Monday but agreed to stay on as a caretaker until a new government can be formed.

Much remains uncertain, with no other politician holding a clear majority in the 222-member parliament. King Al-Sultan Abdullah has the power to appoint a premier on the basis of who he thinks can command a majority.

Here are some possible candidates.


Malaysia’s deputy prime minister with a key role in tackling the COVID-19 crisis, Ismail Sabri was appointed to his position in July in a bid by Muhyiddin to ease tension with key ally, the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) party.

He could get support from the majority of Muhyiddin’s coalition, backed by about 100 lawmakers. But it is unclear if he has UMNO‘s full support. Ismail Sabri went against the party’s call to withdraw support for Muhyiddin.

UMNO lost a 2018 election over widespread graft accusations, but political instability has prevailed since its defeat and it is now key to the formation of any new government.


A veteran lawmaker of 47 years who held various ministerial positions. Popularly known as Ku Li, he was the founding chairman of state energy firm Petronas.

The 84-year-old UMNO politician is seen as a compromise candidate for the party’s different factions.

It is unclear which UMNO candidate would be backed by former premier Najib Razak and party president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, both influential figures who supported the move against Muhyiddin.

Both face criminal corruption charges, which they deny, and have slim chances themselves of getting the top job, but may have the power to influence who does.


The 74-year-old opposition leader has repeatedly made a play for the top job, but has failed to show he can command a majority.

Anwar’s Pakatan Harapan coalition has 88 lawmakers, well short of the simple majority needed to form a government. His old foe, former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad, and some other opposition lawmakers, do not support his leadership bid.


The senior foreign minister in Muhyiddin’s cabinet, Hishammuddin has been a lawmaker for 26 years and is a cousin of controversial former leader Najib.

He leads another faction in UMNO and has held portfolios in several administrations. He was prominent internationally as the embattled transport minister after the 2014 disappearance of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370.


The king opted to retain Muhyiddin as caretaker in the absence of an obvious successor with sufficient parliamentary backing. But there are no rules to keep him from seeking the post again, should he manage to secure the numbers.

Muhyiddin’s rise to prime minister followed similar circumstances in Malaysia as those now. But he was clear in citing parliament’s lack of confidence in him as grounds to resign, as well as vowing not to work with those he called “kleptocrats”.