Malaysia’s Muhyiddin Yassin stepped down as prime minister on Monday after months of political turmoil culminated in the loss of his majority, but his resignation is likely to open another chapter of instability in the absence of any obvious successor.
Muhyiddin’s resignation ends a tumultuous 17 months in office, the shortest stint of a Malaysian leader, but also hampers efforts to reboot a pandemic-stricken economy and curb a resurgence of COVID-19 infections.
The Southeast Asian nation’s king appointed Muhyiddin as the caretaker prime minister until a new premier can be found, but did not give a timeline.
King Al-Sultan Abdullah ruled out elections because of the pandemic and said he would invoke his constitutional power to appoint a prime minister he believes is likely to command a majority.
Malaysia’s ringgit currency fell to a one-year low on the news and the stock market (.KLSE) slipped.
Muhyiddin said he resigned along with his cabinet after losing majority support in parliament.
“I hope a new government can be formed immediately so that the administration of this country is not disrupted,” he said in a televised speech.
“The next two months is crucial as we expect to achieve herd immunity in October,” he added.
Malaysia’s infections and deaths per million rank as the region’s highest in the pandemic.
It was not immediately clear who could form the next government, as no lawmaker has a clear majority in parliament. The opposition bloc and the biggest party are split on support for their prime ministerial candidates.
But the resignation is likely to return the post to the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), Malaysia’s ‘grand old party’, which was voted out in a 2018 election after being tarnished by graft accusations, though it remained influential.