Muhyiddin   Yassin

Muhyiddin Yassin

International Trade and Industries Minister, Malaysia

Date of Birth: 15\05\1947

Muhyiddin Yassin is one of three vice-presidents of the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), the leading member of the Barisan Nasional (National Front) coalition, and as Trade Minister, one of the most important figures in Malaysia's burgeoning trade with Africa.

The coalition of ethnic Malay, Chinese and Indian parties has ruled since Malaysia gained Independence from Britain in 1957. UMNO was hit hard in the March 2008 elections, losing its two-thirds majority in parliament. Further damage came this month when it lost crucial parliamentary by-elections in Terengganu, a heavily Malay area. Slowing economic growth helped the opposition Parti Islam Se-Malaysia and cost the UMNO the seat.

After that disaster, Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi will step down in March - and the succession battle is on. When the UMNO General Assembly meets on 24-28 March, its Deputy President Najib Abdul Razak expects to move uncontested into the presidency - and therefore the premiership of Malaysia. Muhyiddin and others are vying for Najib's job. The party's deputy president becomes vice-premier of the nation. It is not Muhyiddin's first attempt: a 2004 run was lost in an upset.

Bright but not especially charismatic, Muhyiddin has spent recent years honing his reputation. His lack of international experience hamstrung his 2004 candidacy, but the International Trade and Industries post has dramatically raised his profile. And this month, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development reported that Malaysia had won US$12.9 billion in foreign direct investment in 2008, far outperforming its Asian neighbours.

On 5-6 January, Yassin hosted Egypt's Trade and Industry Minister, Rachid Mohamed Rachid. Bilateral trade is small but growing. The state car manufacturer, Proton, plans an assembly plant in Egypt and hopes to make gains in the Egyptian market. Rachid courted Azman Mokhtar, Director of the state investment corporation Khazanah Nasional Berhard. Egypt wants to lure Malaysia's construction and telecommunications firms into public-private infrastructure projects.