KUALA LUMPUR - A lawmaker from the Malaysian opposition Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) may have succeeded in getting the Parliament to accept a motion of no confidence against Prime Minister Najib Razak, but his party remains split about supporting the unprecedented move.
"One group believes that the longer Najib stays as Prime Minister, the worse it will be for Malaysia and he should be removed quickly," a report in Malaysian Insider on Monday (Oct 19) quoted a party source as saying.
"The other group believes that Najib should stay until the 14th General Election, because it will make things easier for the opposition to win Putrajaya," the source said on condition of anonymity.
The split in the PKR ranks comes despite opposition Members of Parliament openly calling for Datuk Seri Najib's removal for the past three months, said the news portal.
PKR lawmaker Hee Loy Sian said last week that he had filed the no-confidence motion over Mr Najib's failure to address claims that he had received US$700 million (S$969 million) linked to debt-ridden state investor 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) in his bank accounts, Bloomberg reported.
The Prime Minister has denied any wrongdoing, and he and investigators have both said the funds were political donations from the Middle East.
"Najib has tarnished the country's image in the world and caused investors to lose faith in the government," Mr Hee wrote in the motion that was posted on the Parliament website on Saturday. "Malaysians do not believe in this Prime Minister."
The PKR source also told the Malaysian Insider that the two groups in the party disagreed over whether they should work with former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad to unseat Mr Najib.
"Dr Mahathir is the most vocal in calling for parliamentarians to remove Najib through a no-confidence vote. Some PKR leaders think this effort should not be supported," said the source. "The other group thinks that cooperating with Dr Mahathir is the best option right now in order to get rid of Najib."
While the no-confidence motion is unlikely to succeed as Mr Najib's Umno party holds a majority in Parliament, it adds to pressure on the embattled premier as he fights for his political life over the scandal.
He retains the support of many divisional heads in his ruling Umno party and in his budget announcement on Friday, he is expected to increase handouts to the poor, many of them rural Malays, a core support base, Bloomberg reported.
Even so, there are signs of discontent, including from former deputy premier Muhyiddin Yassin, whom Mr Najib fired in July.
The Malaysian Insider quoted PKR vice-president N. Surendran as saying that he believed the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) lawmakers would join the opposition in voting against Mr Najib.
"We believe it can be done and that BN parliamentarians will put the country's interests first.
The current split over ousting Mr Najib comes weeks after PKR was reported to be at loggerheads over the launch of new opposition bloc Pakatan Harapan, according to the news portal.
Mr Surendran, however, said that issue had been resolved, and the party now fully backs its president Wan Azizah Wan Ismail. He said all PKR leaders would support the motion of no confidence and insisted the party was united.