Malaysia’s Political Infighting Continues As The Economy Slowly Collapses

Amongst the many, many problems that Malaysia has been facing of late, political uncertainty remains one of its biggest as the latest Malaysian bureaucratic saga continues to offer even more twists and turns, causing its ever-straining healthcare and economic climate to further deteriorate to dangerous levels during the COVID-19 pandemic. In the process, there is a rising sentiment among citizens that the current government (dubbed “kerajaan gagal” or failed government by netizens) has not fulfilled its duties in leading the country out of the hole that both they and we have dug for ourselves.

How Did We Get Here?

This is definitely not out of the norm for politics in Malaysia. Ever since former Premier Najib Razak lost the election which led to his subsequent arrest in 2018, Malaysia’s political landscape has somewhat been a roller coaster ride. In May of that very same year, Najib’s corruption inspired former mentor and Prime Minister, Mahathir Mohamad (then 92 years old) to come out of retirement to retake power. But that would not be the end of the political drama surrounding Malaysia yet as Muhyiddin Yassin — Malaysia’s current Prime Minister — dramatically took over the position as Premier in March 2020 after the former resigned back in February 2020.

Two major change in top-level leadership in less than two years was very surprising indeed but the arrival of COVID-19 further exposed an issue that has been deeply ingrained into the fabric of Malaysia’s political scene since Mahathir first retired in 2003 — barely anything has changed!

This left the country with a number of pre-existing issues to contend with, on top of the pandemic figuratively scorching the country’s landscape and its people’s lives. Worst of all, political squabbling remains one of the biggest blockades today when it comes to addressing the pandemic as well as efforts to return to normalcy.You would think that a global pandemic would be the perfect catalyst for the race for political power to end, albeit temporarily as people are suffering on a day-to-day basis. But no, Malaysia’s political game is something that has always stifled its potential to rise to the level of a global economic powerhouse — essentially showing the world that Malaysia, at its core, is imperfect.

Here’s a quick rundown of how we ended up here today:

  • Najib’s nine years in office ended in a corruption scandal and subsequent conviction.
  • The 21 months of Mahathir 2.0 came and went without so much as a major change to help the country, apart from the quick resignation of the 7th Prime Minister.
  • The following 16 months of Muhyiddin’s leadership fared no better as the 8th Prime Minister of Malaysia spends more and more time fighting to keep his job rather than doing it. 
  • The latest twist in the tale coming in the form of Malaysia’s largest political party (UMNO) pulling their support for Muhyiddin’s ruling coalition.
  • The nation’s parliament has been suspended amidst the COVID-19 pandemic as Muhyiddin announced a state of emergency in January to focus on battling the virus — to no avail as the daily cases have spiked to nearly 10,000 for the past few days. 

These last six months have shown us symptoms of a much larger issue that has plagued our leadership for the last six to 10 years, if not longer. And they’re being exposed now as COVID infections, new variants, and the people’s frustrations grow exponentially for every passing day.

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