KUALA LUMPUR - Malaysia's opposition lawmakers insisted on Thursday (Aug 5) that Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin had misled the King when he claimed that he still has the support of the majority of parliamentarians during his audience with Sultan Abdullah Ahmad Shah.
The presidential council of Pakatan Harapan (PH) - the largest bloc in Parliament - said it was impossible for Tan Sri Muhyiddin to command majority support based on the number of MPs who had rejected his leadership.
"After the PH leadership made careful calculations with allies from opposition parties and those who do not support Mahiaddin Yassin, it is clear that Mahiaddin had not spoken the truth, and misled the King during his audience (on Wednesday)," it said in a statement, using the Premier's birth name.
"This is the highest form of treason against the head of state, and should not be forgiven," it added.
On paper, Mr Muhyiddin's Perikatan Nasional (PN) administration would have the support of at most 104 out of 220 MPs, after the withdrawal of support by 11 Umno MPs on Tuesday.
But it is likely to be an even smaller government bench after an Umno Cabinet minister resigned on the same day, and there is growing talk that other Umno ministers and MPs may join the exodus.
The council called for a special sitting of Parliament on Aug 9 for a no-confidence vote against Mr Muhyiddin to resolve the matter.
"The act of postponing the confidence vote until September is highly unreasonable. The issue of support for Tan Sri Mahiaddin and the stability of the Perikatan Nasional government must be decided now," it said.
The statement was signed by Parti Keadilan Rakyat president and opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, Amanah president Mohamad Sabu and Democratic Action Party (DAP) secretary-general Lim Guan Eng.
Mr Muhyiddin on Wednesday said that he would not step down despite pressure to do so, adding that he had received statutory declarations from MPs that convinced him he still had the confidence of the majority.
He added that his legitimacy can be tested in September when Parliament is scheduled to resume.
The announcement came after Umno's Supreme Council, its highest decision-making body, said it withdrew support for the PN government on Tuesday.
Umno president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi announced that enough Umno MPs had signed statutory declarations retracting their support for the Premier, resulting in Mr Muhyiddin losing his majority in Parliament.
Umno MP and Federal Territories Minister Annuar Musa, however, claimed that Mr Muhyiddin has a "special" relationship with the King. He pointed out that Mr Muhyiddin had been granted audiences with the King three times this week.
"A 'traitor' would not have been allowed to enter Istana Negara. Only the Yang di-Pertuan Agong (King) knows whether the person is a traitor or not," he said on Bernama TV on Wednesday.
Umno MP and former Terengganu menteri besar Idris Jusoh on Thursday also expressed his support for Mr Muhyiddin, and questioned Zahid's move to withdraw support.
"We were instructed to reject the present government and withdraw support for Muhyiddin. After that, where do we go?" he said in a statement.
The Muhyiddin administration has come under fire from many citizens over its perceived mishandling of the Covid-19 pandemic. Malaysia recorded on Thursday the highest number of daily infections yet at 20,596.
The political crisis deepened on July 29 after the King chastised the government for its unilateral decision to revoke emergency ordinances, instead of discussing the issue in Parliament as he had directed.
Housewife Liew Li Lin, 53, said: "When some people ask why the opposition is politicking and not letting the government manage the pandemic, I feel that it is precisely because the government is not managing that we want a change. Do we want to wait until we hit 50,000 cases a day and we are all reduced to zero income before wanting to change the government?"
Vegetable farmer Abigail Samuel, 40, said: "We need an urgent change of government. It has been catastrophic on all fronts, and cases are escalating despite stringent lockdowns and a huge loss of income for Malaysians."
On the other hand, there are also those who are upset that these political power grabs are distracting the government from tackling the surging Covid-19 cases.
"I don't know if any change (in government) will change our situation in general," said administrative executive Nur Ain, 43.
DAP lawmaker Tony Pua raised the issue that if an Umno leader becomes premier, its MPs who are currently on trial for corruption, including former premier Najib Razak and Zahid, may be set free.
"Should we think a step ahead to stop the kleptocrats from getting away scot-free, or worse, regaining political control and power, even if it means tolerating the... Perikatan Nasional government in the hot seat just a little while longer?" he posted on Facebook on Wednesday.