(AP) — Malaysian Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin resigned on Monday after less than 18 months in power, apologizing for his shortcomings but blaming those “hungry for power.”
Muhyiddin conceded that he had lost majority support to govern, making him the country’s shortest-ruling leader.
“I have tendered my resignation as prime minister and also for the entire Cabinet … because I have lost the majority support of lower house members,” he said in a televised final message after meeting the king.
“I take this opportunity to seek forgiveness … for all my mistakes and weaknesses during my tenure as prime minister. I and my Cabinet colleagues have tried our best to save and protect lives … in this period of crisis. However, as a human being, we are bound to make mistakes so I apologize.”
He said he had hoped to stay on until the country’s coronavirus vaccination program is completed and the economy has recovered, but was thwarted by those “hungry for power.”
Muhyidddin’s departure plunges the country into a new crisis amid a worsening COVID-19 outbreak. Political leaders have already begun to jostle for the top post, with his deputy, Ismail Sabri, rallying support to succeed Muhyiddin and keep the government intact.
The palace said the king, Sultan Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah, accepted Muhyiddin’s resignation and appointed him as caretaker prime minister until a successor is found, in line with the constitution.
Sultan Abdullah said a new election is not an option because many parts of the country are COVID-19 red zones and health facilities are inadequate. He urged the nation to stay calm and expressed hope that the political turmoil that has disrupted the country’s administration will be swiftly resolved.
The king’s role is largely ceremonial in Malaysia, but he appoints the person he believes has majority support in Parliament as prime minister.
Muhyiddin’s resignation comes amid mounting public anger over what was widely perceived as his government’s poor handling of the pandemic. Malaysia has one of the world’s highest infection rates and deaths per capita, with daily cases breaching 20,000 this month despite a seven-month state of emergency and a lockdown since June to tackle the crisis.