JAKARTA — A week after taking office, Malaysian Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin named members of a corruption-tainted party to his new cabinet alongside ministers who broke with the previous government led by Mahathir Mohamad.
Several portfolios, including foreign affairs and defence, have been allocated to the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) of former prime minister Najib Razak, who is facing multiple charges of corruption.
Muhyiddin on Monday mentioned the need for “integrity” in government and repeated promises made in his maiden speech last week that he would not appoint anyone accused of corruption.
Instead of naming a deputy, Muhyiddin on Monday appointed four “senior ministers,” including Azmin Ali, who was economy minister under Mahathir as well as deputy leader of prime ministerial aspirant Anwar Ibrahim’s People’s Justice Party, but broke with his old colleagues before the previous government imploded in late February.
Muhyiddin said he was naming a “functional cabinet” to meet the twin challenges of a slowing economy – with growth for the last quarter of 2019 the country’s slowest since the 2008-09 financial crisis – and the spread of coronavirus, with 117 confirmed cases in Malaysia.
In what Muhyiddin described as a “technocratic” appointment, Zafrul Aziz, Chief Executive of CIMB, one of the country’s biggest banks, was named Finance Minister.
The graft-tarnished UMNO was Malaysia’s dominant party until losing 2018 parliamentary elections to an alliance led by Mahathir, the 94-year-old who was prime minister until his shock February 24 resignation.
Mahathir and Muhyiddin had been allies and leaders of the Bersatu party, one of four in the previous governing coalition. Muhyiddin served as Mahathir’s home affairs minister.