MPs from Umno-led BN break ranks to support Malaysia PM Muhyiddin Yassin

Malaysian Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin has said he still commands the confidence of the Lower House. PHOTO: MUHYIDDIN YASSIN/FACEBOOK

KUALA LUMPUR - Dozens of lawmakers from the Umno-led Barisan Nasional (BN) alliance agreed on Friday (Aug 6) to continue backing Malaysia's government until a confidence vote in September, breaking ranks with Umno which saw its leadership thrown into uncertainty after its decision to delay party polls was declared invalid.

Malaysia's Deputy Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob said on Friday that 31 of the 42 lawmakers from BN will support Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin's Perikatan Nasional (PN) administration, which was deprived of a Parliamentary majority after Umno declared it was withdrawing its support on Tuesday.

Umno MPs make up 38 of BN's 42 lawmakers.

PN was estimated by analysts to hold a slim majority of 113 of the 222 seats in Parliament before Umno's move. Even with the support of the 31 BN lawmakers, it still falls short of a simple majority needed to govern.

The list of 31 lawmakers included at least three Umno MPs who were present with Umno president Zahid Hamidi when he announced the party was withdrawing its support for Tan Sri Muhyiddin's government.

Two of them, Tan Sri Noh Omar and Datuk Seri Azeez Rahim, said in videos on their respective Facebook accounts later on Friday that it was not appropriate at this stage to conclude whether they did or did not support the government. They said they would cast their vote in Parliament.

Datuk Seri Ismail, who is also an Umno vice-president, said that the stand taken by the 31 MPs is in line with the wishes of Malaysia's King, Sultan Abdullah Ahmad Shah.

"We will heed the King's decree for the current government to continue its administration, and that its legitimacy will be tested in Parliament," Mr Ismail said, referring to the confidence vote on Sept 6.

Meanwhile Umno turned up the pressure on Friday when Higher Education Minister Noraini Ahmad resigned, the second Umno minister to quit the Cabinet this week. This leaves seven remaining Umno ministers in the 31-strong Cabinet.

The party's leadership and its decisions however were thrown into question on Friday when the Registrar of Societies (ROS) issued a statement declaring Umno's Supreme Council decision to postpone party polls on July 7 was invalid because its officer bearers' three-year terms had expired on June 30.

Sociopolitical analyst Awang Azman Awang Pawi of Universiti Malaya said the ROS statement may be seen as politically-motivated and could backfire on the Muhyiddin government.

Malaysia's Deputy Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob during a press conference with Barisan Nasional members on Aug 6, 2021. PHOTO: BERNAMA

"This could add to anger among Malay voters who might see that it is related to Umno retracting its support for PN," he told The Straits Times.

Umno chief Zahid had warned earlier this week that there would be "consequences" for Mr Ismail breaking ranks with the party to back Mr Muhyiddin.

"There will be consequences ... where he is not supporting the party's decision. I will leave it to the disciplinary board," Zahid was quoted as saying by The Vibes news site on Wednesday.

Zahid's position as Umno chief however could be up for challenge after the ROS statement.

Mr Muhyiddin told reporters in Johor on Friday that he remained confident that he still commands majority support.

"To solve this matter, we have to bring it to Parliament. I am not afraid or worried as I am confident of having the majority," he was quoted as saying by The Star daily.

He added that any change in government could affect efforts in fighting the Covid-19 pandemic.

"Can the country face such problems if any reshuffling or changes lead to a chaotic political situation? It could affect the National Recovery Plan and any measures being taken such as the vaccination process and so on," he said, referring to the country's pandemic exit plan.

Opposition lawmakers from the Pakatan Harapan pact insisted on Thursday that the Prime Minister had misled the King about the level of support he enjoys and that a confidence vote should be held as soon as next Monday.

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