Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak reshuffled his Cabinet yesterday, promoting two MPs to full ministers and moving two of his loyalists into more powerful positions in new portfolios.
He also named four men as new deputy ministers in his Barisan Nasional (BN) government while moving two deputy ministers into different portfolios.
But what caught everyone by surprise was the unexpected resignation of Second Finance Minister Ahmad Husni Hanazdlah. He relinquished his role in the Finance Ministry and resigned from all positions within Umno and BN.
Datuk Seri Najib said the minister had asked to be dropped, and that "he's quite ready to retire".
Think-tank Ideas chief Wan Saiful Wan Jan said: "It's a surprise as he hasn't said anything about retiring. This raises questions over possible disagreement within the Finance Ministry." Mr Najib is also Finance Minister and, together with Mr Husni, oversaw 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) when the scandal broke.
The changes were Mr Najib's second Cabinet reshuffle since a Wall Street Journal report almost a year ago shook the government with its allegations that he had some US$700 million (S$953 million) transferred into his personal accounts from state fund 1MDB.
Mr Najib has denied any wrongdoing and said the funds in his personal accounts in 2013 were from Saudi Arabia. Attorney-General Mohamed Apandi Ali has said the Premier will not be investigated over this.
Last year's Cabinet shake-up was carried out to sack then Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin and Rural and Regional Development Minister Shafie Apdal as PM Najib removed rebels following fallout from the 1MDB saga.
Being in a stronger position this time around, the appointments allowed him to reward his allies. "The line-up reflects Najib gearing up for the next election. He needs a stable Cabinet," said Mr Wan Saiful.
The reshuffle, Mr Najib said, "will strengthen the administration to ensure that the development agenda for the people - their economic, welfare and security development - will continue to run smoothly".
A Kuala Lumpur MP, Mr Johari Abdul Ghani, is the new Second Finance Minister. The other new full minister is Selangor MP Noh Omar, who is the Minister for Urban Wellbeing, Housing and Local Government.
The former urban wellbeing minister, Mr Abdul Rahman Dahlan - a staunch defender of PM Najib - is the new Minister in the Prime Minister's Department in charge of the Economic Planning Unit, a powerful agency that sets socio-economic targets.
The fourth top change was Gerakan president Mah Siew Keong, who was a minister in the prime minister's department. He is the new Plantation Industries and Commodities Minister, whose portfolio includes the huge palm oil and timber industries. Chinese-based Gerakan under Datuk Seri Mah remains strongly loyal to Mr Najib amid his political woes.
Four deputy ministers were also named in the ministries of Finance, Prime Minister's Department, Plantation Industries, and Domestic Trade, Co-operatives and Consumerism.
Mr Najib is in a stronger political position today after winning state polls in Sarawak last month and twin by-elections in Selangor and Perak this month, while the opposition is weakened by infighting, analysts say. Asked if he is taking this new line-up to the next general election due in 2018, the Premier replied: "It could be. I haven't decided on the date of the next election."