ALOR STAR • The 15 opposition lawmakers in Kedah insisted yesterday that a confidence vote be carried out in the state assembly to determine whether Menteri Besar Mukhriz Mahathir should retain his post, amid a crisis sparked by his own party.
The opposition leaders issued a joint statement hours before they were to meet yesterday at the royal Kedah Regency Council, which is playing a mediating role in trying to resolve the political deadlock in the northern Malaysian state.
"We praise the palace for summoning us to get our views. The council is upholding democratic principles and the people's rights," the assemblymen said.
But they insisted that a vote to test the Chief Minister's standing should be carried out in the 36-seat state legislature, in a calculated move to make Prime Minister Najib Razak look weak.
Datuk Seri Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, the opposition alliance's chief, said in a statement that the opposition is likely to vote in support of Datuk Seri Mukhriz.
"In the absence of compelling justifiable reason, our view is to maintain and support the status quo. This is especially pertinent when concerning a member who enjoys the support of the majority," she said.
The crisis was sparked on Jan 20 by a revolt against Mr Mukhriz by 14 of 15 Umno divisional leaders in Kedah.
They cited his weak leadership that had stalled the state's economy. Kedah, Malaysia's biggest rice-planting state, is mainly known in the country for its Langkawi tourist island and industrial output from Sungai Petani and Kulim towns.
The plan to topple Mr Mukhriz is also seen as retribution by Datuk Seri Najib as the Kedah Chief Minister has all along been supporting his father, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, a harsh critic of the Premier.
Replacing Mr Mukhriz would strengthen Mr Najib's hold on Umno, and serve as a warning to other potential party rebels.
On the other hand, failure to remove him would make Mr Najib look weak as he could not even dislodge a state chieftain who has repeatedly questioned him on issues surrounding the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) scandal.
Last July, Mr Najib had easily removed deputy prime minister Muhyiddin Yassin and Cabinet minister Shafie Apdal over state fund 1MDB. And Mr Najib had also sacked and promoted several other Umno leaders, depending on their continued loyalty to him.
At least 19 Kedah lawmakers must vote against Mr Mukhriz in the House to oust him.
The Regency Council on Monday met the 21 Barisan Nasional coalition lawmakers. But it is understood that apart from Mr Mukhriz himself, several other assemblymen also refused to back the ouster plan.
The 21 BN lawmakers comprise 19 from Umno and two from the Malaysian Chinese Association.
An opposition assemblyman from Parti Islam SeMalaysia, Mr Ahmad Yahya, told The Malaysian Insider website: "If you have to remove the MB (Menteri Besar), do it in a proper manner. Removing a menteri besar is not something that can be done by just calling a press conference."
THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK