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Malaysia

Church groups wary of Malaysia's new ruling coalition

Unease among minorities as PAS takes power in a nation increasingly riven by ethnic and religious fault lines

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Church groups wary of Malaysia's new ruling coalition

A protester wearing a full-body protective suit poses with a person dressed as Spiderman during a demonstration to protest the ejection of the democratically elected government in Kuala Lumpur on March 1 after Muhyiddin Yassin was sworn in as prime minister following the reformist government's collapse. (Photo: Mohd Rasfan/AFP)

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The unexpected emergence of Muhyiddin Yassin, 72, as Malaysia's prime minister has seen Islamist Parti Islam Se-Malaysia (PAS) become a key member of the new ruling Pakatan Nasional (National Alliance) coalition backed by parliament’s second-largest party, United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), which was defeated in the 2018 elections.

This spells a fresh push for Islamic hudud laws and other extremist laws that have been pushed in the past, such as stripping citizenship from minorities — it’s the first time PAS has had its hands on the levers of federal power since 1974.

Still, the nation's political chaos is far from over, with former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad — whose surprise resignation on Feb. 23 precipitated a week of furious political horse trading — marshaling forces as he attempts yet another comeback.

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