With his last-ditch plan to seek opposition backing for his government rejected, embattled Malaysian Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin appears set to resign after failing to cobble up majority support.
The PM acknowledged on Friday he might have lost majority support in Parliament
Under Malaysia’s constitution, the prime minister must resign if he loses majority support
A Malaysian minister said the Prime Minister would submit his resignation to the King on Monday
Mohamad Redzuan Mohamad Yusof, a minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, said Mr Muhyiddin would submit his resignation to the King on Monday.
“Tomorrow, there will be a special Cabinet meeting. After that, he is expected to have an audience with the King and present his resignation,” Mr Redzuan told The Associated Press.
He said the premier informed members of his Bersatu Party at a meeting Sunday that he had exhausted all avenues to sustain his administration and resigning was the last resort.
Mr Redzuan said Mr Muhyiddin would point out to the monarch that his alliance still had the biggest bloc of support despite losing the majority.
If Mr Muhyiddin steps down on Monday and it is accepted by the palace, it will spark fresh political uncertainties and a second change of government in Malaysia since the pandemic began last year.
More than a dozen politicians from the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), the largest party in the ruling alliance, have pulled their support for the government, which is enough to cause its collapse because of its razor-thin majority. Two UMNO ministers have resigned from the Cabinet.
Under Malaysia’s constitution, the prime minister must resign if he loses majority support and the king can appoint a new leader who he believes has the confidence of Parliament.
Mr Muhyiddin initially insisted he still had majority support and would prove it in Parliament next month. But in a U-turn on Friday, he acknowledged he might have lost majority support in Parliament and he sought the backing of opposition parties to keep his government from collapsing.
Mr Muhyiddin promised to call general elections by next July. He also offered a raft of benefits, including proposals to limit his tenure, bolster checks and balances and offer a senior minister role to the Opposition Leader in return for their support. But all opposition parties have rejected the olive branch, calling it open bribery and demanding Mr Muhyiddin resign.
“His coalition government has lost face. It is looking most likely that Muhyiddin is going to resign but it’s not clear who will be taking over and when,” said Bridget Welsh of Malaysia’s University of Nottingham, an expert on South-East Asian politics.
Mr Muhyiddin can advise the King to dissolve Parliament and call for early polls, but this is not a likely option as daily COVID-19 infections breaching 20,000.
The King can decide on a new leader, but currently, no one coalition can claim a majority. A three-party alliance, which is the biggest opposition bloc, has nominated its leader, Anwar Ibrahim, as a candidate for prime minister. But the bloc has under 90 members, short of the 112 needed for a simple majority. That is also less than the 100 politiicans believed to be backing Mr Muhyiddin.
Calls for ‘peaceful transition’ to better manage COVID crisis
Some local media said UMNO, the biggest party in the ruling alliance, is pushing one of its members to replace Mr Muhyiddin, in order to keep the alliance intact. But it is unclear if a deal can be struck and if the King will accept it.
Mr Muhyiddin’s party also appeared to reject the UMNO plan. Mr Redzuan said letting the party take over the top job “would send the wrong signal.” Some party leaders are facing criminal charges and Mr Muhyiddin says he was approached to interfere in the cases.
“We see a situation where the King has to decide if this is about Muhyiddin the man or Muhyiddin’s government,” which has lost majority support, Ms Welsh said. “The focus should be to ensure a peaceful transition to better manage the COVID-19 crisis.”
Mr Muhyiddin took power in March 2020 after initiating the collapse of the former reformist government that won 2018 elections. His party joined hands with UMNO and several others to form a new government that has been unstable. UMNO has been unhappy with playing second fiddle to Mr Muhyiddin’s smaller party.
Mr Muhyiddin had been ruling by ordinance without legislative approval since January after suspending Parliament under a state of emergency declared to battle the coronavirus. Critics said he used the emergency, which expired on August 1, to avoid a vote in Parliament that would show he had lost majority support.
Public anger with his government mounted after a lockdown imposed in June failed to contain the virus, with daily cases soaring above 20,000 this month. Malaysia has reported more than 1.36 million confirmed infections since the pandemic began and more than 12,000 deaths.