Malaysian PM's majority hangs in balance after MP withdraws support

Muhyiddin's coalition now has only 110 lawmakers backing it in 220-seat House

Umno MP Ahmad Jazlan Yaakub (centre) announcing yesterday that he was withdrawing support for Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin's administration.
Umno MP Ahmad Jazlan Yaakub (centre) announcing yesterday that he was withdrawing support for Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin's administration.PHOTO: AHMAD JAZLAN YAAKUB/TWITTER

Malaysian Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin is on the brink of losing his majority in Parliament after an Umno lawmaker announced he was withdrawing support for the administration.

This leaves the Perikatan Nasional (PN) government with command of just half of Malaysia's Lower House.

Datuk Ahmad Jazlan Yaakub, the MP for Machang ward in Kelantan, announced he was withdrawing support for Tan Sri Muhyiddin yesterday, merely days after he had quit as chairman of the Malaysian Palm Oil Board.

"I announce my withdrawal from supporting the Perikatan Nasional government led by Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin," Mr Ahmad Jazlan reportedly said at a surprise press conference.

His withdrawal means that PN effectively has only 110 lawmakers backing its administration in the 220-member Parliament, and no longer has the majority to pass legislation without obtaining support from the opposition bench.

Mr Ahmad Jazlan's decision comes days after several Umno leaders indicated that the party is set to withdraw its support for Mr Muhyiddin, which would lead to a collapse of the government.

Though not part of the PN coalition that comprises Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu), the Islamist Parti Islam SeMalaysia, and Sabah's Parti Solidariti Tanah Airku, Umno's support for the government is vital, with its 38 MPs - the most among all the governing parties - boosting PN's presence in Parliament.

The party has threatened multiple times to withdraw support for PN.

Another Umno lawmaker, elder statesman Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah, has termed Mr Muhyiddin's government "illegitimate", and he did not support Mr Muhyiddin's first federal budget, passed last month with only a two-vote majority.

Tan Sri Tengku Razaleigh was also one of many lawmakers who tried, unsuccessfully, to have a no-confidence motion against Mr Muhyiddin debated in Parliament.

Two-thirds of Umno's divisions resolved to cut ties with Bersatu - Mr Muhyiddin's party - last week.

The divisions' resolutions will be brought to an Umno general assembly scheduled for Jan 31. That is when a final decision is expected to be made on Umno's continued support for the government.

Umno's top decision-making body - the supreme council - has also supported the motion to cut ties with Bersatu, and the matter will now be put before the party delegates during the general assembly.

But internal conflicts remain. Tan Sri Annuar Musa, an Umno MP who remains supportive of the PN administration, claimed last week that Umno president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi had previously issued a letter stating support for opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim to become Malaysia's next prime minister.

Datuk Seri Anwar claimed last September to have a parliamentary majority, but has so far failed to produce evidence of it.

Mr Muhyiddin's PN coalition-has 50 seats in Parliament. The Barisan Nasional coalition, which is led by Umno, has 42 seats. The rest of the government's backing comes from a coalition of Sarawak parties and independents.

The opposition Pakatan Harapan coalition, which is led by Mr Anwar, has 91 seats.

But the opposition aisle is also filled with several other parties, such as former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad's Parti Pejuang Tanah Air, Parti Warisan Sabah, and former Cabinet minister Syed Saddiq Abdul Rahman's Muda party, which caters to youth.

Malaysia's Parliament is not due to sit again until March.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on January 10, 2021, with the headline 'Malaysian PM's majority hangs in balance after MP withdraws support'. Subscribe