KUALA LUMPUR - Malaysia's Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin on Wednesday (Aug 4) faced down calls for his resignation, saying the King had agreed to his proposal to test his majority in a confidence vote when Parliament reconvenes in September.
The announcement came just hours after 11 Umno MPs withdrew support for his Perikatan Nasional (PN) government, a move widely believed to have deprived it of a majority in the Lower House.
The Prime Minister was speaking in a televised national address following a morning audience with Sultan Abdullah Ahmad Shah, who had delivered a stunning public rebuke of the government last week.
"I am aware that my position as prime minister is continuously questioned. Therefore, I have informed the King that I will determine my legitimacy... in the Lower House when it sits in September," Tan Sri Muhyiddin said. "His Majesty consented to my proposal."
The lawmakers from Umno, Malaysia's largest party, had announced on Tuesday that they no longer backed Mr Muhyiddin's leadership, leaving his PN administration with the support of at most 104 out of 220 MPs.
But Mr Muhyiddin, who is also Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia president, insisted in his speech that he continued to command the majority in Parliament.
"I have received a number of statutory declarations from MPs that convince me that I still have the confidence of the majority," he said. "Hence, my resignation... does not arise."
But leaders across the 105-strong opposition bench denied pledging their support for the embattled Mr Muhyiddin and instead called on him to prove his legitimacy sooner.
Democratic Action Party veteran Lim Kit Siang said Parliament should be convened in two weeks for a confidence vote, while former premier Najib Razak questioned "why not now" since "he believes he still has majority support".
Although there were 11 MPs present on Tuesday evening when Umno president Zahid Hamidi announced that they no longer supported Mr Muhyiddin, the Prime Minister said Sultan Abdullah mentioned only eight MPs had withdrawn their support from the government in the letter from the monarch summoning him to Wednesday's audience.
Energy and Natural Resources Minister Shamsul Anuar Nasarah had also resigned from Cabinet on Tuesday, but was not in attendance at Zahid's press conference.
Zahid on Wednesday said that the premier was lying, and that he has sent more declarations by Umno MPs to the Palace.
In his speech, Mr Muhyiddin accused his opponents of sparking a political crisis because "they are uneasy with my firmness in ignoring... their pressure for me to interfere in the judiciary to free several individuals who are being prosecuted".
Several of the Umno MPs who withdrew support for Mr Muhyiddin on Tuesday are facing corruption charges, including Zahid and Najib, who is appealing against a conviction in the 1Malaysia Development Berhad scandal.
The political crisis in Malaysia deepened on July 29 after the King chastised the government for misleading Parliament following de facto law minister Takiyuddin Hassan's claim that six ordinances the monarch had promulgated during the seven-month emergency, which expired on Sunday, had been revoked.
The Palace said Sultan Abdullah had withheld his consent until the revocations were approved by Parliament, leading to widespread accusations of treason against the Muhyiddin administration.
The Prime Minister again denied the claims in Wednesday's broadcast, insisting that what he did "was merely to... defend the sanctity of the constitutional monarchy".
He also assured the public that the Cabinet and government machinery would continue to operate to "execute their duties" especially in tackling the Covid-19 pandemic. The country registered a record 19,819 new cases on Wednesday.