KUALA LUMPUR - Former Malaysian premier Mahathir Mohamad said a vote of no-confidence should be held in Parliament to determine if Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin still has the majority support to lead the government.
Tun Dr Mahathir said on Thursday (Sept 24) that with Umno president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi affirming that "many" Umno MPs now support opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, Tan Sri Muhyiddin's razor-thin majority would have been erased.
Parliament should also vote to decide who has majority support as prime minister, Dr Mahathir said, rather than calling for a fresh general election amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
"Since Tan Sri Muhyiddin was sworn in as prime minister, I have asked for a vote of no-confidence to be held in Parliament to solve this problem," Dr Mahathir said in a statement, referring to questions over PM Muhyiddin's majority when he became premier in March. "If this can be done, then we can avoid having a general election at a time when we are still battling the Covid-19 pandemic."
Dr Mahathir said this following Datuk Seri Anwar's claim on Wednesday (Sept 23) that he had a "convincing and formidable" majority to form a government.
Until Mr Anwar's claim, Mr Muhyiddin was held to have 113 MPs backing him, with 109 supporting the opposition.
Ahmad Zahid, responding on Wednesday to Mr Anwar's claims, said he was aware that "many" MPs from Umno and the Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition now backed the opposition chief.
Said Dr Mahathir: "If we accept that Zahid's statement is true and is based on his position as Umno and BN chief, this means Muhyiddin can no longer stress he has a solid majority to be the PM. The important thing now is to study whether the PM still has the majority to remain in his position. Whether Anwar has a majority or not is a separate issue that he (Anwar) will need to prove."
The political buzz on Thursday was that some 15 Umno lawmakers who supported PM Muhyiddin are now with Mr Anwar.
As Mr Anwar did not reveal their names, politicians joined other Malaysians on Thursday in guessing who these party hoppers could be.
The Malaysian King, Sultan Abdullah Ri'ayatuddin, remained in hospital for the third day on Thursday with an unspecified ailment, thwarting Mr Anwar's plan to see him and present his list of supporting MPs.
Mr Muhyiddin on Wednesday issued a statement to say that until Mr Anwar has proven otherwise through constitutional processes, he remains the prime minister.
Seemingly unperturbed by the claim to his leadership, PM Muhyiddin flew back to Sabah on Wednesday to resume campaigning for Saturday's state polls.
The claim by Mr Anwar, though, has reverberated in his own Pakatan Harapan (PH) coalition of three parties.
Some of PH's members have fought against Umno for decades.
Though Zahid has opened the door for Umno MPs to support Mr Anwar, PH's Democratic Action Party has indicated it may not be keen to participate in such an arrangement.
Lim Guan Eng, the secretary-general of the DAP, said he had been under the impression that lawmakers from Gabungan Party Sarawak (GPS) would join the proposed new government, not Umno.
He said Mr Anwar only informed him about the takeover plan moments before the bombshell announcement.
"He gave the impression that he had GPS supporting him to have a comfortable majority. With GPS it should be at least 120 MPs," Lim was quoted as saying by the Malaysiakini news site.