Commentary: Malaysia opposition leader Muhyiddin pulls off shrewd political move with ’24-hour resignation’

There are several possible reasons why Muhyiddin Yassin changed his mind a day after vowing to step down as Bersatu party president. But the best answer might not be the most obvious one, says James Chin, Asian Studies professor at University of Tasmania.

(CNA) – Twenty-four hours after the surprise announcement that he would step down as president of his party, Malaysia’s de facto opposition leader Muhyiddin Yassin did a complete U-turn.

On Saturday (Nov 25), the former prime minister said he would defend the presidency of Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu) in its party elections next year. Bersatu leads the Malay-majority Perikatan Nasional (PN) coalition, which also includes Parti Islam Se-Malaysia (PAS).

Muhyiddin said he really wanted to leave, but that his wife told him to stay for another term.

Why all the high drama? After all, on paper, Muhyiddin looks secure in his position as Bersatu chief. He is one of the party founders and a political heavyweight.

Perhaps most importantly, PN did extremely well in the six state elections in August. The opposition made major inroads in Malay-majority seats and increased their share of the Malay votes by about 10 per cent.


The most obvious answer, and widely circulated in Kuala Lumpur political circles, was that Muhyiddin was testing his real support in Bersatu.

Immediately after his announcement on Friday, Bersatu’s Supreme Council held an emergency meeting and unanimously rejected Muhyiddin Yassin’s decision.

What most people forgot was that Muhyiddin had used this same tactic earlier this year.

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