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Malaysia’s new prime minister, Mahathir Mohamad, continues to shake up national politics and policy. Earlier this month, his government arrested his predecessor, former Prime Minister Najib Razak, on charges of embezzlement. In addition, and related to that investigation, the Kuala Lumpur government has suspended four joint infrastructure projects with China. While it is too simplistic to say that Japan benefits from recent developments, there is no missing ways in which Mahathir’s policies create opportunities for Tokyo in this vital Southeast Asian country.

Mahathir returned to power — he retired nearly 15 years ago after serving as prime minister for 22 years — in a stunning May election victory that capitalized on popular disgust over allegations of corruption in Najib’s government. The primary focus of anger was the looting of a national development fund, 1MDB, from which some $4.5 billion disappeared, nearly $700 million of which is alleged to have found its way into Najib’s personal bank accounts. Najib has been formally charged with three counts of criminal breach of trust and one of abuse of power. He denies all wrongdoing, pleaded not guilty and insisted that all charges are politically motivated.

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