Malaysia’s prime minister under increasing pressure as key party exits ruling bloc

05-Aug-2021 Intellasia | Bakersfield | 7:03 AM Print This Post

The largest political party in Malaysia’s ruling coalition retracted support for Muhyiddin Yassin’s government, piling more pressure on the embattled prime minister to resign.

Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, president of the United Malays National Organisation, yet again urged Muhyiddin to step down shortly after fellow party member Shamsul Anuar Nasarah resigned as energy minister. The UMNO leader was flanked by other party heavyweights at a briefing late Tuesday night, including former prime minister Najib Razak.

UMNO presented letters to the king from party lawmakers declaring they withdrew support for Muhyiddin, Ahmad Zahid said, without revealing their names. The current administration has lost its majority and Muhyiddin “must take responsibility for the failure under his leadership,” he added.

Muhyiddin has faced calls to resign in recent days after the monarch issued a rare rebuke of his government for bypassing the king’s role as head of state in moving to cancel laws imposed without legislative approval during a seven-month state of emergency. The king clarified on Thursday that the ordinances remained in force and that he wished for them to be debated and annulled by lawmakers in parliament.

UMNO’s support has been key to Muhyiddin maintaining the razor-thin majority he cobbled together to emerge as prime minister last year. The party’s members include Malaysia’s deputy prime minister, health minister and vaccine coordinating minister. Still, the party is divided into several factions and it’s unclear if Ahmad Zahidi speaks for all of its lawmakers in parliament.

The withdrawal of nine more lawmakers would leave Muhyidding with “at most” 105 in the 220-member parliament, according to Wong Chin Huat, a professor of political science at the Jeffrey Sachs centre on Sustainable Development at Sunway University in Malaysia.

“If he cannot reverse the loss of majority, his number is going to shrink to two digits in days, if not hours, to come,” he said. “More UMNO parliamentarians may follow.”

Malaysia’s ringgit weakened 0.1 percent to 4.2250 per dollar, set for its biggest decline in two weeks. The main stock index slid 0.9 percent as of 10:15 a.m. local time, headed for its lowest level since November last year.

The prime minister’s residence became a hive of activity in the hours after UMNO’s announcement on Tuesday night. deputy prime minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob, who last week said the ruling coalition has the support of more than 110 lawmakers, was among the politicians seen entering Muhyiddin’s home in Kuala Lumpur along with Home minister Hamzah Zainudin and Attorney general Idrus Harun, Bernama reported.

Earlier on Tuesday, Muhyiddin said the government planned to debate and annul the emergency laws in parliament next month, as he sought to end the rift between the government and the nation’s king over the matter. The motion, to be taken up at a cabinet meeting on Wednesday, may help resolve disputes related to the emergency ordinances in a “harmonious and constitutional manner,” he said in a statement.

Muhyiddin has struggled to shore up support for his government since taking power in March last year, facing constant demands from coalition partners and threats of defections. In January he cited the pandemic to impose a state of emergency. Yet, infections have since more than tripled, while confirmed cases breached the one million mark in late July.

“If an alternative majority fails to emerge, the power struggle may drag on,” said Wong from Sunway University. “Muhyiddin may stay on or strive to stay on as the minority PM.”


Category: Malaysia

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