Malaysian PM Muhyiddin Yassin delays no-confidence vote citing virus battle, Mahathir cries foul

A motion seeking a vote of no confidence in Malaysian Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin's leadership was approved last week. PHOTO: REUTERS

KUALA LUMPUR (REUTERS, THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Malaysian Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin will not face a confidence vote on May 18 as earlier scheduled, the Speaker of Parliament said on Wednesday (May 13), a decision denounced by former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad as a possible sign of Tan Sri Muhyiddin lacking a parliamentary majority.

"Parliament is not allowed to convene, which means Muhyiddin does not have majority support," Tun Dr Mahathir said in a video message on Facebook.

"It looks like there is an attempt to block me from even speaking as a Member of Parliament."

The next session of Parliament has been set for July 13 to Aug 27, but no date has been given for a confidence vote.

People close to Mr Muhyiddin's ruling Perikatan Nasional (PN) alliance say they have a majority among the 222 MPs.

Last week, the Speaker approved a motion seeking a vote of no confidence in Mr Muhyiddin's leadership brought by 94-year-old Dr Mahathir, who had resigned as prime minister in February as his ruling coalition fell apart because of political wrangling.

But Speaker Mohamad Ariff Md Yusof said in a statement on Wednesday that Mr Muhyiddin later informed him that the government had decided to list only one order of parliamentary business for the day, the opening address by the King, "as the Covid-19 pandemic has not been fully cleared".

The office of parliamentary opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim said he would address the matter during a Facebook Live session on Thursday.

Mr Muhyiddin, a former colleague of both Dr Mahathir and Datuk Seri Anwar, was unexpectedly sworn in on March 1 as prime minister with the support of Umno, which was defeated by the multi-ethnic Pakatan Harapan (PH) coalition in the last general election in 2018.

Since then, Parliament has not held a single session as the the coronavirus led to Malaysia imposing movement restrictions.

The country has so far reported 6,779 coronavirus patients, with 111 deaths.

Malaysia's movement control order, which was into its 57th day on Wednesday, has been relaxed since last week with most businesses allowed to reopen, leading to calls by the opposition that Parliament must be convened to test support from the country's MPs for Mr Muhyiddin's PN ruling alliance.

Meanwhile, bitter infighting has continued within two-year-old Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia. Dr Mahathir is Bersatu's chairman and his faction is fighting against a larger faction controlled by Mr Muhyiddin, the party president, for control.

Dr Mahathir and a handful of Bersatu MPs remain allied to PH, while Mr Muhyiddin leads PN.

The Mahathir faction is claiming that Mr Muhyiddin broke an agreement to remain in PH, by abruptly pulling out of the coalition to join up with then opposition parties Umno, Parti Islam SeMalaysia, a breakaway group of MPs from Parti Keadilan Rakyat, and Gabungan Parti Sarawak.

The Muhyiddin faction, on the other hand, is claiming that Dr Mahathir knew about the formation of PN that would topple PH, and was not opposed to it.

Both sides are keen to prove that their narrative comes out on top.

On Wednesday, a leaked audio recording allegedly depicting Bersatu's final supreme council meeting before it quit PH made the rounds on social media.

In the one-minute audio recording, a voice that sounded like Mr Muhyiddin could be heard saying Dr Mahathir was entrusted with the mandate on whether to pull Bersatu out of PH.

If the recording is valid, it would appear to prove that Mr Muhyiddin broke his own party's consensus.

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