Islamist party PAS turns down Malaysia PM Anwar’s offer to join government

PAS secretary-general Takiyuddin Hassan said the party will respect the wishes of the majority, especially those who voted for PN coalition. PHOTO: THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

KUALA LUMPUR - Malaysia’s Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS) turned down Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim’s offer to join his unity government on Saturday, saying that it will remain as an opposition party along with its Perikatan Nasional (PN) coalition partners.

PAS secretary-general Takiyuddin Hassan said on Saturday that the Islamist party, which has 43 MPs – the most in Parliament – after the Nov 19 General Election, will respect the wishes of the “majority” and especially those who had voted for the PN coalition.

Datuk Seri Takiyuddin’s assertion came a day after PN chief Muhyiddin Yassin said that the coalition will remain as an opposition bloc and will not be joining the government, which already has a two-thirds majority in Parliament.

On Friday, Mr Takiyuddin had said that PAS will consider Mr Anwar’s offer, which was made hours after he was sworn in as Malaysia’s 10th prime minister on Thursday, ending five days of political impasse.

PAS’ decision means that PN, which is made up mainly of PAS and Tan Sri Muhyiddin’s Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia, will be the only opposition.

Mr Anwar said on Thursday that he was leaving the door open for PN to join his government, in the spirit of the wish of the King, Sultan Abdullah Ahmad Shah, to see a unity government following a polarising election which resulted in a hung Parliament.

PN had already rejected the proposal on Tuesday, when Mr Muhyiddin told the King that he was not amenable to the idea of forming a unity government with PH.

PN had attempted, unsuccessfully, to form Malaysia’s next government and consistently claimed it had the support of a majority of MPs, before finally conceding and congratulating Mr Anwar on Friday.

PN has 73 MPs, the second-largest bloc after Mr Anwar’s PH, which won 82 seats.

But Mr Anwar was able to form a government with the backing of former ruling coalition Barisan Nasional, Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS), other parties and independents. As at Saturday, he has the support of 148 MPs – or two-thirds of lawmakers in the 222-member Parliament.

Mr Anwar has said that he will test his majority in Parliament by calling for a confidence vote when the Lower House sits on Dec 19.

He has also promised a leaner Cabinet, to reduce salaries for ministers, and not take any pay as prime minister as he looks to help Malaysia recover from an economic slump and prolonged political instability that has lasted for more than two years.

PN’s Sabah-based partner Gabungan Rakyat Sabah (GRS) has said that it will be backing Mr Anwar’s government. But GRS chief Hajiji Noor on Saturday denied that his party had demanded the deputy prime minister’s post in the Cabinet, which has yet to be formed.

Mr Anwar previously hinted that his government will have two deputy premiers, one from BN, which has 30 MPs, and one from GPS, which has 23.

GPS leaders led by Sarawak Premier Abang Johari Tun Openg visited Mr Anwar’s residence on Saturday. “The relationship between Sarawak and the federal government will be closer and strengthened in order to plan a better Malaysia,” Mr Anwar said of the visit in a Twitter post.

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