After a day of high drama, Umno decides to back PN pact

Tan Sri Muhyiddin's Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia has 31 MPs in the 12-party PN alliance.
Tan Sri Muhyiddin's Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia has 31 MPs in the 12-party PN alliance.PHOTO: REUTERS

KUALA LUMPUR - The political storm that had threatened to derail the Malaysian government receded somewhat in the wee hours of Tuesday (Oct 27) after the Umno leadership decided to continue extending its support to the Perikatan Nasional administration.

The decision came after a marathon meeting of the Umno Supreme Council that stretched past midnight on Monday, and a day of high drama in course of which there were mixed signals - including suggestions that Umno might seek to replace embattled Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin.

Tan Sri Muhyiddin, himself, had contemplated resigning over a royal rebuff to his request for emergency power, The Straits Times has learnt.

The King, Sultan Abdullah Ahmad Shah, had decreed that politicians not threaten the stability of the Muhyiddin government and let it get on with tackling the resurgent coronavirus pandemic.

A change of government appeared very much on the cards, with marathon meetings through the day, until the Umno supreme council announced after midnight that the party’s MP’s would continue to support the PN government.

The statement did not explicitly back Mr Muhyiddin.

"Umno MPs will continue supporting the PN government.

“Umno calls for improvements in the principles of cooperation that must be centred on the values of respect and political consensus,” said the statement issued by party president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi.

Before this, ST had learnt that Mr Muhyiddin had considered resigning on Sunday night after his proposal was rebuffed by the King, but close allies persuaded him to stay on until a solution can be found.

“Muhyiddin was shaken by the King’s rejection, but he does not want to follow the footsteps of Mahathir,” a source said, referring to how former premier Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s resignation left Malaysia in political chaos for a week before Mr Muhyiddin was sworn in on March 1.

The Prime Minister met party chiefs from his PN pact, early on Monday, but a notable absentee was Umno president Zahid, who has in recent weeks threatened to withdraw his party’s support for Mr Muhyiddin.

The Prime Minister then chaired a special Cabinet meeting at 11.30am.

Zahid, who had skipped the PN meet, saying he was unwell, chaired a meeting of the Umno-led Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition’s 43 MPs Monday afternoon after. Its ministers too arrived at the Umno headquarters following the Cabinet meeting.

Asked if Mr Muhyiddin’s resignation was on the Umno meeting's agenda, Foreign Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said: “That is what we are discussing... We discussed how to move forward.”

Former premier Najib Razak said on Facebook that he proposed that Umno back Opposition Leader Anwar and his Pakatan Harapan (PH) pact, but it must exclude the DAP.

The supreme council, Umno’s top decision-making body, said last night it had rejected this proposal.

It met from about 8.30pm on Monday, immediately after an evening conference of the party’s state chiefs. The meeting ended just after midnight.

The plan to call an emergency was ostensibly to allow the government to tackle the pandemic without political distractions but critics have dismissed it as a ploy by Mr Muhyiddin to stay in power, given that the Prime Minister’s razor-thin majority in Parliament will be tested when MPs meet to vote on the Budget next month.

An emergency would have allowed Parliament to be suspended ahead of the crucial Budget 2021 vote next month.