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Malaysia in transition

Muhyiddin's new cabinet marks comeback for Malaysia's old regime

UMNO snags 11 posts, while chief of lender CIMB takes finance portfolio

Malaysian Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin arrives for a news conference to unveil his cabinet picks on March 9.   © AP

KUALA LUMPUR -- Malaysia's new Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin on Monday announced a roster of 31 cabinet ministers, with many of the posts going to politicians from the scandal-tainted United Malays National Organization (UMNO) and the conservative Malaysian Islamic Party.

Muhyiddin, of the Bersatu party, stormed into power just over a week ago after successful maneuvering that forced 94-year-old Mahathir Mohamad to resign.

In an attempt to restore confidence in the domestic economy and win over foreign investors, the new leader also gave cabinet positions to academics and technocrats. Tengku Zafrul Tengku Abdul Aziz, group CEO of Malaysia's second-largest lender CIMB Group, was appointed finance minister.

"With the economic uncertainties amid the trade war and the impact of coronavirus, I am aware that Malaysians are [placing] high hopes on this government to find solutions to the issues faced by ordinary citizens on a daily basis," Muhyiddin said in his office on Monday.

For foreign minister, the new premier picked Hishammuddin Hussein, a former defense minister and a first cousin of ex-Prime Minister Najib Razak. Najib is currently on trial in connection with the corruption scandal at now-defunct sovereign wealth fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad, or 1MDB, which remains a dark cloud over his UMNO party.

All told, 11 of the ministers hail from the UMNO.

Muhyiddin also selected 38 deputy ministers. But he scrapped the position of deputy prime minister and instead named four senior ministers: Azmin Ali, for international trade and industry; Ismail Sabri Yaakob for defense; Fadillah Yusof for works; and Radzi Jidin for education. They will be allowed to chair cabinet meetings and make key decision in the prime minister's absence.

All the ministers are expected to be sworn in at 3 p.m. (local time) on Tuesday in front of King Sultan Abdullah Ri'ayatuddin.

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