November 22, 2022
KUALA LUMPUR – Perikatan Nasional (PN) chief Muhyiddin Yassin has rejected the prospect of working with rival Pakatan Harapan (PH) in a cross-coalition unity government as requested by Malaysia’s King on Tuesday, after no leader appeared able to cobble together a simple majority following Saturday’s general election.
The request was made by the monarch, Sultan Abdullah Ahmad Shah, after he held a one-hour audience at the palace with PH leader Anwar Ibrahim and Tan Sri Muhyiddin. PH and PN emerged from the polls with the largest blocs in Parliament but neither of these was sufficient to form the required majority of 222 seats.
But while Datuk Seri Anwar said he “accepted the spirit of a unity government”, his rival Muhyiddin has rejected the prospect of working with PH out of hand, insisting he had sufficient support to become Prime Minister.
“I want to clarify that yesterday we already submitted the necessary documents to the Palace to prove that PN with other parties, have 115 MPs backed by statutory declarations,” Mr Muhyiddin told a press conference on Tuesday attended by top figures from his coalition.
“We have discussed the matter from before and we will not cooperate with PH. That is our stand from before. I was asked to sign a document stating whether we agree to form a unity government. I signed but wrote that I disagree.,” the Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia president added.
Mr Muhyiddin’s insistence that he commands the majority comes despite the decision by the Barisan Nasional (BN) alliance earlier on Tuesday to remain in the opposition and not back any coalition. Support from at least eight of the Umno-led BN’s 30 MPs is needed for former premier Muhyiddin to cross the 112-seat threshold for a simple majority in the 222-strong Parliament.
MrAnwar told reporters after the meeting at the palace that His Majesty had given his advice that “the government that will be formed must represent all parties, all races, religions, and regions”.
“Give us some time and for the King to consider and use his wisdom to make a final call. There was no decision (on who is to be prime minister) yet. There is a vacancy and it is open for applications,” he said.
Sultan Abdullah Ahmad Shah had summoned both Parti Keadilan Rakyat president Anwar and PN chief Muhyiddin after the closely fought general election on Saturday resulted in a hung Parliament.
“As no MP has the confidence of a simple majority, His Majesty has consented to an audience with leaders of the Pakatan Harapan and Perikatan Nasional coalition at 4.30pm,” read a statement from the palace issued on Tuesday.
The King is also set to interview BN’s 30 lawmakers individually from Wednesday morning, to ascertain whether there is a leader who can command a majority of the Lower House.
Supporters from PH had gathered outside the palace gates, with about 100 of them milling about, according to news site Malaysiakini.
Brickfields police chief Amihizam Abdul Shukor told media personnel there that he will be increasing the number of security personnel present.
Both PH and PN are short of the 112 MPs needed to claim a simple majority in Parliament, and the support of 30 MPs from Umno-led BN would have been enough to get either side past the threshold.
“The BN supreme council has decided not to support either coalition to form the government. BN agreed to remain in opposition,” said caretaker Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob.
This is despite BN holding shock Monday morning talks with PH leaders, including its prime ministerial candidate Anwar.
“We have made a decision. Leave it to the BN secretary-general to make the statement. No declarations have been signed. We are not siding (with anyone),” Umno’s Jelebu MP Jalaluddin Alias told reporters after the BN meeting on Tuesday.
When met by reporters gathered outside the palace after 2pm on Tuesday, the King called on all parties to respect the electorate’s decision.
“The people are asked to be patient, and accept the decision of the people, the elected representatives, and myself. We have to be rational, we have to move on. Let me make a decision,” he told the media.
Speaker of Parliament Azhar Harun was seen arriving at the national palace at 1.30pm, local media reported.
Several BN MPs have insisted they would not work with Mr Anwar, the Parti Keadilan Rakyat president, or the Democratic Action Party, which has the most number of MPs within PH’s 82-seat bloc.
The Straits Times has learnt that there was growing momentum within Umno since Monday to stay in the opposition but offer its backing to former premier Muhyiddin, in an arrangement akin to a confidence-and-supply agreement (CSA). However, there is also talk that the same deal could be offered to Mr Anwar.
A similar deal was struck when Umno vice-president Ismail became prime minister last year. PH agreed not to oppose him in parliamentary votes that determine confidence – such as the government budget – while the administration rolled out reforms and policies put forward by the opposition coalition.
“BN is ready to be a responsible opposition to provide a check and balance to the new government,” Umno deputy president Mohamad Hasan said late on Monday. “However, if our assistance is required during this post-election transition, we are ready to contribute to open and sincere discussions.”
This came after fierce debate within BN, as many top leaders were shocked and even incensed at the presence of PH figures at their meeting on Monday.
Although Umno president Zahid Hamidi has been at the forefront of the push to back PH, a majority of BN’s MPs will be needed for former deputy premier Anwar to achieve a simple majority.
This is after Parti Warisan Sabah pledged on Tuesday afternoon its three MPs to a PH-BN combination, easing the need for BN to support Mr Anwar en bloc.
On the other hand, with the support of various parties in East Malaysia, Mr Muhyiddin has already surpassed the 100 MP-mark and would need fewer than half of BN’s lawmakers to gain a simple majority.
Coalitions led by his Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia won 79 seats – 73 under PN and six by Gabungan Rakyat Sabah (GRS) – while Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS) contributes 23 more.
On Tuesday, GPS issued a statement saying that while it had proposed a majority government be formed by PN, BN, GPS and GRS, it was leaving the decision on appointing a prime minister to the King’s discretion.
It stressed that the country’s interests and a strong, stable government should come before the party’s own interests.