Perak sultan meets PH chiefs amid political impasse, but Bersatu, PAS skip audience

UMNO has submitted the name of Datuk Saarani Mohamad as Perak's next menteri besar.
UMNO has submitted the name of Datuk Saarani Mohamad as Perak's next menteri besar.PHOTO: THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

KUALA LUMPUR - Leaders of two parties in Malaysia's Perikatan Nasional (PN) alliance in Perak skipped an audience with the state's ruled on Tuesday (Dec 8), as the sultan ventured to resolve a political impasse caused by the ouster of the state's menteri besar last week.

Perak leaders of Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu) and Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS) were summoned by Sultan Nazrin Azlan Shah following his meeting with Umno leaders on Tuesday morning.

But a Bersatu leader claimed his party did not receive a royal invitation to come to the palace, while a PAS leader said its Perak chapter cannot meet the ruler without instruction from its central leadership. 

The snub reflected unhappiness in Bersatu and PAS against Umno for being involved last week in the ouster of the Perak menteri besar, by joining hands with the opposition in the state assembly.

Instead at around 4pm on Tuesday, leaders of opposition Pakatan Harapan arrived at the ruler's palace in Ipoh for an audience with Sultan Nazrin. Under the Constitution, the ruler must determine which party or alliance has majority control of the state assembly, before announcing that faction's leader as the menteri besar (chief minister).

After the meetings with Umno and PH, a spokesman for the Perak palace, Mohd Annuar Zaini, told reporters at Istana Kinta in Ipoh: “Since no one was able to convince the Sultan that they have simple majority, we will wait until they ready to be able to convince Sultan on the matter.” Datuk Seri Zaini is a member of the Advisory Council to the Perak Ruler.

Northern Perak state was governed by the PN parties of Bersatu, Umno and PAS since the collapse nine months ago of the PH coalition.

But in a confidence vote last Friday, most of Umno's state lawmakers joined the opposition PH assemblymen to remove Perak's menteri besar, Datuk Seri Ahmad Faizal Azumu who is from Bersatu.

Mr Faizal garnered only 10 votes in the 59-strong state assembly, with 48 votes against him. One vote was spoilt.

This came about after 24 of the 25 Umno assemblymen voted against him, joining the 24 PH opposition votes.

Umno is the biggest party in the Perak legislature, but a minimum of 30 seats is needed to control the assembly.

It isn't clear if the other two PN parties, Bersatu (five seats) and PAS (three seats), will agree to work again with Umno to form a new Perak government.

On Tuesday morning, Umno leaders led by its president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi had an audience with Sultan Nazrin and submitted the name of its senior assemblyman, Datuk Saarani Mohamad, as the next menteri besar.

The opposition PH, with 24 seats, has said it was willing to work with Umno to form the new government.

And Umno leaders have indicated that it too was willing to consider working with PH.

PH in Perak comprises the Democratic Action Party (with 16 seats), Datuk Seri Anwar's Parti Keadilan Rakyat (three) and Parti Amanah Negara (five).

The remaining two seats in the assembly are held by independent party Gerakan, and an independent legislator.

If the Umno-PH alliance comes about, it would be the first time that Malay nationalist party Umno and its bitter political nemesis, the Chinese-led DAP, have come together, after decades of demonising the other as racist.

But in a turnaround late on Monday evening, Umno's supreme council, the party's top decision-making group, said it will continue to work with Bersatu and PAS.

What isn't clear is whether Bersatu, which felt played out by the ouster of Mr Faizal, and PAS, are willing to team up again with Umno. Hence the summon by Sultan Nazrin for Bersatu and PAS to meet him.

The three PN parties jointly have 32 seats, enough to form the new Perak state government.

Significantly, Mr Faizal is deputy president of Bersatu, whose president is Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin. Hence, Mr Faizal's ouster is seen as an Umno play against Tan Sri Muhyiddin's political strength.

Umno has been agitating for months for more senior Cabinet posts in the federal government, which PM Muhyiddin has thwarted.

And Umno clashed with Bersatu in Sabah in September over the choice of a new chief minister soon after the state polls. In the end, Bersatu managed to get its way by getting its Sabah leader as chief minister.