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Muhyiddin sworn in as Malaysia's PM; Mahathir calls for urgent Parliament sitting as PH resistance continues

KUALA LUMPUR

Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu) president Muhyiddin Yassin was sworn in as Malaysia's prime minister on Sunday, but Mahathir Mohamad-led Pakatan Harapan (PH) is refusing to give up the fight.

Leaders aligned to Mr Muhyiddin had gathered for prayers at the Kuala Lumpur mosque near the National Palace before the ceremony started.

Dr Mahathir insisted on Sunday morning that he still had the backing of  the majority of members in the 222-strong Parliament.

“The King has made the decision not to see me anymore, but to appoint Tan Sri Muhyiddin. So I did not have the chance to tell the King that he does not have the majority. I cannot communicate with the palace,” he told reporters.

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He lamented that ”this is a very strange thing... the losers (of the last election) will form the government, the winners will be in the opposition".

Dr Mahathir said he would request an urgent session of parliament - which is already set to reconvene on March 9 - to test if Mr Muhyiddin commands the majority.

“Let MPs decide whether they support or not. That will be the official decision,” he added, although he expressed concern that the newly installed Muhyiddin administration would woo MPs over before parliament sits.

Dr Mahathir resigned as prime minister last Monday, but stayed on as interim leader, triggering the week-long search for a new government.

Asked if he regretted resigning, he said he was forced to after seeing his Bersatu working to form the government with Umno last Sunday, a move that led to the collapse of the PH administration he led since the May 2018 election.

Dr Mahathir said he feels most betrayed by Mr Muhyiddin.

"I feel betrayed, mostly by Muhyiddin. He has been working on this for a long time and now he has succeeded," he said.

He said that Mr Muhyiddin had been trying to coax him to split with Chinese-dominated Democratic Action Party (DAP) following losses in three by-elections, but Dr Mahathir had asked him to wait until after the criminal trials of Umno leaders were resolved before considering cooperating with Umno.

“Malays believe DAP controls the government, not me,” Dr Mahathir added.

The former ruling Pakatan Harapan coalition said on Sunday that it had the support of 112 MPs and that they hoped that the next parliamentary session will convene as scheduled on March 9.

“This is the best way to determine who has the support as the prime minister and to end the country’s political turmoil,” it said in a statement.

However, Parliament Speaker Mohamad Ariff Md Yusof said on Sunday that the March 9 Parliamentary Assembly sitting may be postponed.

“(The session will) probably not (start on March 9). I will be officially communicating with the PMO (Prime Minister’s Office),” he was quoted as saying by the Malay-language daily Berita Harian.

Former deputy premier Mr Muhyiddin is supported by most of Bersatu's MPs, as well as those from Umno, the Islamist Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS), and Gabungan Parti Sarawak that controls the eastern state.

Although a handful of MPs from the Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA) and Malaysian Indian Congress (MIC) are also backing Mr Muhyiddin, the make-up of his coalition has raised fears of right-wing pro-Malay policies.

But sacked Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) deputy president Azmin Ali, who was a prime mover in last Sunday’s move to bring some PH leaders to form government with then opposition parties, insisted the Muhyiddin administration would “strengthen the unity of the people”.

”We are committed to the national agenda, driving economic revival, ensuring shared prosperity, protecting the safety and sovereignty of the nation... and achieving institutional reforms,” he said in a statement on Sunday.

The Gombak MP brought his nine other PKR parliamentarians to swell the ranks of those supporting Mr Muhyiddin after Dr Mahathir declined to lead the so-called National Alliance.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong congratulated Mr Muhyiddin over the phone, and invited him to visit Singapore soon.

"I am confident that Singapore's longstanding and multi-faceted relationship with Malaysia will grow under Tan Sri Muhyiddin's leadership, and benefit both our peoples," said Mr Lee in a Facebook post on Sunday afternoon.

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