Pakatan Harapan's (PH) state government in Kedah, led by former premier Mahathir Mohamad's son Mukhriz, fell yesterday after two Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) assemblymen defected to Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin's Perikatan Nasional (PN) alliance which gained federal power in March after a week-long crisis.
The move was the latest salvo in a battle between Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia heavyweights, Tan Sri Muhyiddin and Tun Dr Mahathir. Dr Mahathir's request for a motion of no confidence against his successor, Mr Muhyiddin, was accepted by Parliament last week.
According to the Islamist Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS), a member of the loose PN pact, four Bersatu assemblymen have also withdrawn support for Datuk Seri Mukhriz, who as Kedah's chief minister had only the minimum 19-strong support in the 36-seat state legislature prior to yesterday.
Lunas representative Azman Nasrudin and his counterpart from Sidam, Dr Robert Ling Kui Ee, told a press conference that they had quit the party after losing confidence in PKR president Anwar Ibrahim.
"We will give the utmost support to the current prime minister, who is Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin... and the leadership of Perikatan Nasional," Mr Azman said, speaking for himself and Dr Ling.
Both are known to be aligned with Senior Minister for the Economy Azmin Ali, the former PKR deputy president who was a key figure in tying up former opposition parties, including Umno and PAS, along with defectors from PH, to push Mr Muhyiddin to the premiership in March.
PAS is set to lead the new state government as it is the largest bloc with 15 assemblymen. Its state chapter told reporters yesterday that PN had a total of 23 assemblymen, including two from Umno and the two PKR defectors.
However, the four Bersatu representatives who are said to have withdrawn their support have not made public statements on their position, though local news portal Malaysiakini reported that the two have confirmed they no longer back their deputy president, Mr Mukhriz, as Menteri Besar.
PAS Kedah deputy chief Muhammad Sanusi Md Nor, currently the state's opposition leader, refused to confirm widespread speculation he would be the new chief minister, merely saying "there is a consensus reached by the central party leadership of all three parties (PAS, Bersatu and Umno)".
The Jeneri assemblyman added that "if he (Mukhriz) was with Muhyiddin, this wouldn't have happened", confirming The Straits Times' report on Monday that PN was amenable to Dr Mahathir's son leading it in the family's home state.
Despite the fall of PH and subsequent takeover by PN at the federal level that led to a string of state governments changing hands, Mr Mukhriz was left to govern in Kedah for over two months as Mr Muhyiddin, Bersatu's president, sought to mend fences with his 94-year-old predecessor, Dr Mahathir.
SUPPORT FOR PRIME MINISTER
We will give the utmost support to the current prime minister, who is Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin... and the leadership of Perikatan Nasional.
LUNAS REPRESENTATIVE AZMAN NASRUDIN, speaking for himself and his Sidam counterpart, Dr Robert Ling Kui Ee.
The elder statesman resigned as prime minister in late February in protest at being asked to accept Umno into his government. He had in 2018 led PH to hand Umno its first ever defeat at a general election.
But Mr Mukhriz is seeking to unseat Mr Muhyiddin as Bersatu president in party polls which have been postponed indefinitely due to the coronavirus outbreak.
Dr Mahathir was returned unchallenged as Bersatu's chairman during nominations, but his party membership and his son's are now in doubt. They are alleged to have breached party rules by remaining with PH.
PH now governs only Penang, Selangor and Negeri Sembilan, having lost Melaka, Perak and Johor in March. PH ally Warisan still rules in Sabah, leaving PN in charge of nine of Malaysia's 13 states.