Malaysia's Kedah state expected to flip to PM Muhyiddin's alliance soon

Kedah, still a Pakatan Harapan state government, is in Malaysian Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin's crosshairs. PHOTO: AFP

PETALING JAYA (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - The gloves are off for Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin and he is preparing to strike back following the hostile moves from the Tun Mahathir Mohamad camp the past week.

Kedah, which is still a Pakatan Harapan (PH) state government, is in Tan Sri Muhyiddin's crosshairs and it is learnt that Datuk Seri Mukhriz Mahathir will be out as Kedah menteri besar by the middle of next week.

If all goes well, the new menteri besar is likely to be Muhammad Sanusi Md Nor, the Jeneri assemblyman from Parti Islam Semalaysia (PAS).

Mr Sanusi, who cut his political teeth as the political secretary to the late Kedah PAS menteri besar Azizan Abdul Razak, is expected to make the requisite courtesy call on the Sultan of Kedah in the next few days.

The incoming state goverment led by Mr Muhyiddin's Perikatan Nasional (PN) alliance will comprise 15 assemblymen from PAS, four from Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia, two from Umno and another two lawmakers from Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR).

With a total of 23 assemblymen, PN will have a solid 10-man majority in the 36-seat state assembly.

Mr Mukhriz's government would have collapsed much earlier had he not appealed to Senior Minister Azmin Ali for help to hold on to Kedah.

It was learnt that Datuk Seri Azmin then approached PAS and Umno to maintain the status quo and give Mr Mukhriz a chance.

PAS sources said Mr Mukhriz had even offered them state executive councillor posts but PAS president Hadi Awang said his party was not interested in work with Parti Amanah Negara, a breakaway party from PAS.

Those who cooperated with Mr Mukhriz think he has not appreciated what they did and that he took them for granted.

This will be the second time Mr Mukhriz has had to make a premature exit from the top job in the state.

He was menteri besar for barely three years from 2013 to 2016, before he was sacked by then Prime Minister Najib Razak.

Back then, Mr Mukhriz's troubles began because his father Dr Mahathir had fallen out with Najib.

It is ironic that the script and even some of the actors have not changed much from then to now - Dr Mahathir is now trying to topple Mr Muhyiddin, and Mr Mukhriz is once again the sacrificial lamb.

The move to give the top job to PAS will be good optics for PN and would send a signal that the coalition believes in power sharing.

PM Muhyiddin had adopted a hands-off policy on Kedah even though Mr Mukhriz's PH state government no longer commanded the majority.

Mr Muhyiddin, the Bersatu president, was then still hopeful for a reconciliation with his party chairman Dr Mahathir, and had left the Kedah government alone as a goodwill gesture.

But everything changed earlier this week after Dr Mahathir submitted a motion for a vote of no confidence against Mr Muhyiddin's premiership.

It was a declaration of war and it pushed Mr Muhyiddin to take the bull by the horns by moving against Mr Mukhriz.

It is unclear how the impending development will affect Mr Mukhriz's chances in his bid to challenge Mr Muhyiddin for the Bersatu presidency in the party polls later this year.

Mr Muhyiddin is not only going for Mr Mukhriz but he is also preparing to take Dr Mahathir head-on in Parliament on May 18 at the one-day sitting.

The Speaker has allowed the elder man's motion against Mr Muhyiddin, a move widely seen as a sign that Mr Muhyiddin is confident of his numbers.

PH has remained quite silent on whether they will rally behind Dr Mahathir.

It is a Catch-22 situation for PH. They will look bad if they do not vote for the motion but if they do, it would be seen as an indirect endorsement of Dr Mahathir's leadership.

PH has endorsed PKR chief Anwar Ibrahim as the Opposition leader in a letter to the Speaker on May 4.

It is unlikely that the coalition will want to give Dr Mahathir the impression that they want him back as their leader.

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