What does the Cabinet line-up say about the new Government?

Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin came to power after a week of elite political machinations that saw key defections (including his own) from the governing Pakatan Harapan coalition.

Mar 14, 2020

By Zachary Abuza
Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin came to power after a week of elite political machinations that saw key defections (including his own) from the governing Pakatan Harapan coalition.

Although it was uncertain whether Muhyiddin even commanded the 112 seats necessary to form a majority coalition, the King believed he did and appointed him prime minister.

But – fearful that he would face a vote of no confidence, possibly returning power to Pakatan Harapan (PH) – Muhyiddin delayed the convening of parliament by two months. While not illegal, it certainly violates the spirit of the law and raises questions as to whether he does indeed command a majority.

Yet, on March 9, Muhyiddin announced his Cabinet, which was quickly endorsed by the King.

The cabinet line-up tells us several important things about the new Government.

First, Muhyiddin may now command a slim parliamentary majority. The suspicion surrounding the delayed seating of parliament was that the prime minister needed time to buy off a handful of MPs.

The cabinet line-up suggests that he did just that. Four PH members who appeared on former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohammed’s list of pledged supporters, released on March 2, are in the Cabinet. Muhyiddin apparently found their price.

Second, the Cabinet is very large. In addition to the prime minister, it has 31 ministers and 36 deputies. By comparison the PH cabinet had just 27 ministers.

The ministerships and deputy positions are held by nine different political parties in the National Alliance coalition. Two ministers are non-party affiliated figures.  Bersatu holds 11 ministerships and 13 deputy positions followed by UMNO with nine and eight, respectively.

The bloated nature of the Cabinet serves as a reminder of the patronage-based politics of Malaysia. Every partner in this coalition, including minor ones such as the Malaysian Indian Congress and the Malaysian Chinese Association, received ministerships or at least deputy ministerships.

The real winners of this Cabinet are the four Borneo-based parties which are so critical to any governing coalition. Together they hold 16.1 per cent of the ministerships and 16.6 per cent of the deputy ministerships.

Third, the National Alliance is built on the idea of Malay supremacy, 26 of the ministers are Muslims; only five are nonMuslims. This is a far cry from the multi-racial PH cabinet. This may elicit some concerns amongst the country’s minorities.--benarnews.org

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