No. 2 in Malaysia is Umno's comeback kid

Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin is the comeback kid in Umno, returning time and again to contest for top spots in the party before reaching his zenith in 2008.

Till then he was not well-supported outside of his home state of Johor although he was backed by party bigwigs.

In 1984, he contested for an Umno supreme council seat but lost. In 1990, he lost again in a bid to become one of the three party vice-presidents. He, however, won in his second attempt in 1993, but failed to defend his seat in 1996.

Mr Muhyiddin won back the post in 2000 and eventually became deputy president, the No. 2 in the party, in 2008 after incumbent Datuk Seri Najib Razak was appointed acting party president. Mr Najib was named to the post after the resignation of then prime minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.

He was appointed Deputy Prime Minister in 2009.

Mr Muhyiddin joined as an ordinary Umno member in Pagoh in 1971. In less than five years, he was elected Johor Umno Youth secretary and became the MP for the parliamentary seat of Pagoh in 1978 at the age of 31.

He was supported by many leaders within Umno including former parliamentary speaker Sulaiman Ninam Shah, former deputy prime ministers Musa Hitam and Abdul Ghafar Baba.

His association with former prime minister, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, began early in his political career after he was given the Federal Territories deputy minister portfolio in Dr Mahathir's first Cabinet in 1982.

Four years later, in 1986, Mr Muhyiddin was ordered to contest in the state seat of Bukit Serampang so Dr Mahathir could appoint him Johor Menteri Besar.

He remained the state's chief for the next 10 years before returning to the federal government by contesting in the parliamentary seat of Pagoh during the 1995 general election.

Mr Muhyiddin was born in Muar, which is also known as the royal city of Johor, in 1947 and comes from a prominent family in the state. His father Muhammad Yassin Mohammad was an Islamic theologian and founder of several religious schools in the city. Mr Yassin was a well-known orator and declined to become the state's mufti.

Despite his reluctance to join politics, he had important and influential friends in Umno including Johor's third Menteri Besar Othman Saat, former Johor Menteri Besar and Mufti Hassan Yunus, first parliamentary speaker Muhammad Noah Omar, and nationalist Kosai Salleh.

Mr Yassin's popularity and friendships proved crucial to Mr Muhyiddin as he built his career and political base in Johor.

This article was first published on May 13, 2015.
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