JOHOR BARU (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Former Johor menteri besar Osman Sapian could have his membership in Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia terminated after facing accusations of helping the opposition in a Perak by-election.
Datuk Osman, 68, was seen meeting leaders of a new party formed by former premier Mahathir Mohamad, and was apparently campaigning for its candidate in the recent Slim by-election, as seen in a viral video posted online.
The Pulai Bersatu division in Johor will be referring Mr Osman, who is the assemblyman for Kempas ward, to the party's disciplinary board.
Other Bersatu members including Tun Dr Mahathir himself, had been sacked for working with political parties opposed to Bersatu.
Johor Bersatu information chief Ya'cob Atan said his Pulai division would be making an official complaint to the board.
"Osman's action in campaigning and expressing his support for the independent candidate during the Slim by-election was in conflict with Bersatu and our choice of candidate," he said.
"His action affects the division and we have decided to make an official complaint as Osman is the Kempas assemblyman, which is under the Pulai parliamentary seat," Mr Ya'cob told told a press conference on Monday (Aug 31).
Dr Mahathir's Parti Pejuang Tanah Air is a splinter party of Bersatu, which is led by Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin.
In last Saturday's Slim by-election, the Pejuang candidate stood as an independent candidate, as the party's registration has yet to be approved by the Registrar of Societies.
Mr Ya'cob questioned Mr Osman's claims in the video that Bersatu has strayed from its original purpose.
"Based on Bersatu's constitution, any action that is deemed to be against the party will see their membership being revoked immediately, which is similar to what happened to Tun Mahathir and four other former Bersatu MPs," Mr Ya'cob said.
But removing Mr Osman from Bersatu is a tricky issue in Johor, as it could cause a hung state assembly.
Bersatu and its allies in the Perikatan Nasional (PN) state government today have 29 lawmakers in the 56-seat state legislature, following a series of party hopping.
The opposition Pakatan Harapan (PH) parties have 27 lawmakers.
If Mr Osman allies himself with PH, both sides will have 28 seats each.
State Speaker Suhaizan Kaiat said the present state government would not have a simple majority if Bersatu takes action against Mr Osman, or if the assemblyman decides to quit and become an independent.
This would case a hung assembly, putting the state government in a difficult position when trying to approve a motion or Bills in the House, he said.
"If there is a hung assembly, then the Speaker will have the deciding vote on whether the motion will be passed or not," he said.
The seats of the PN Johor government currently are held by Umno (14), Bersatu (12), Malaysian Indian Congress (two) and Parti Islam SeMalaysia (one).
PH's seats come from the Democratic Action Party (14), Parti Amanah Negara (nine) and Parti Keadilan Rakyat (four).
In June, Johor's Sultan Ibrahim Sultan Iskandar expressed his disappointment with the state's political turmoil.
"If there is power grabbing happening among the elected representatives, then I will immediately dissolve the Johor state assembly," he had warned.
Sabah state in eastern Malaysia is facing a Sept 26 state polls due to a botched power grab.