Key Malaysian alliance party supports struggling PM
KUALA LUMPUR, July 8 (Reuters) – Malaysia’s largest political party and key ruling coalition ally on Wednesday withdrew its support for Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin and called on him to step down for failing to deal with the COVID-19 in the country.
The United Malay National Organization’s (UMNO) decision to withdraw support came just hours after Muhyiddin appointed a high-ranking UMNO member as deputy prime minister, seen as an attempt to soften months of internal struggles.
Some UMNO lawmakers have been unhappy to play second fiddle to the prime minister’s own party. Read more
But the country’s attorney general said the withdrawal would not affect the position of Muhyiddin or his cabinet, as the question of his chamber’s majority can only be determined by parliament, not by statements by leaders of the political parties.
“For now, the government has no clear facts to show that the prime minister no longer holds the confidence of the majority of MPs,” Attorney General Idrus Harun said in a statement.
Parliament is due to hold an extraordinary five-day meeting from July 26, its first meeting this year after it was suspended in January when a national emergency was declared to fight the coronavirus. Read more
UMNO government ministers, who hold key portfolios such as health, defense and foreign affairs, have yet to announce their departure.
Muhyiddin’s office did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
UMNO President Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said the withdrawal of support for Muhyiddin was due to an inability to effectively deal with the coronavirus problem, ensure political and economic stability and gain public trust.
Muhyiddin is expected to make way for an interim prime minister, who would focus on the pandemic, Zahid said.
Zahid also called for elections after obtaining collective immunity through mass vaccinations.
Elections are not scheduled until 2023, but Muhyiddin said earlier this year that he will hold polls when it is safe to do so. Read more
Muhyiddin has a slim two-seat parliamentary majority, with UMNO comprising 37 of its 113 lawmakers. The Prime Minister’s party, Bersatu, owns 31.
Malaysia has been under strict lockdown measures since June as coronavirus infections rise sharply. It crossed the 800,000 case mark on Thursday, the third highest in Southeast Asia after Indonesia and the Philippines.
Reporting by Rozanna Latiff; Editing by Michael Perry, Lincoln Feast, Martin Petty
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