KUALA LUMPUR - The political party of Malaysia's Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin has formally joined the Muafakat Nasional alliance, to form a grand Malay Muslim organisation with nearly 40 per cent of all federal MPs.
The coming together of the three biggest Malay Muslim parties - all former political enemies - could mean less politicking among the ruling alliance and thus more stable politics.
But critics are worried their banding together might weaken the rights of minorities.
Muafakat Nasional, which means National Consensus in Malay, is an alliance formed by Umno and Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS) when they were in the opposition after losing the 2018 general election.
Both parties wanted to consolidate Malay voters behind them in fighting back against Malaysia's multiracial ruling coalition, Pakatan Harapan (PH), led by Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.
But ever-shifting political loyalties saw the collapse of PH five months ago, with Umno and PAS now part of the ruling pact after most MPs in Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu) abandoned PH.
Bersatu, led by its president Tan Sri Muhyiddin, now leads a new ruling alliance called Perikatan Nasional (National Alliance), or PN.
Muafakat is a separate alliance, but is friendly to PN.
Umno today has 38 MPs, PAS 18 and Bersatu 32.
Thus added together, Muafakat will have 88 lawmakers in the 222-seat Parliament - or a bloc of 39.6 per cent of the MPs.
The Malaysian Parliament on July 13 for the first time tallied the number of MPs backing PN and the opposition. It found 111 lawmakers behind PN and 109 supporting PH and the other opposition parties. One MP was absent and another abstained in the 222-strong House.
This means that Umno, PAS and Bersatu provide the bulk of MPs for the PN ruling alliance, with Gabungan Parti Sarawak (13 MPs) and other smaller parties adding to the overall 111 tally.
Bersatu's decision to join Muafakat came about as bickering continued between its leaders and Umno, which has been agitating for more Cabinet posts in government.
Adding to the sore, most of the Bersatu MPs had defected from Umno.
The Malay Muslim parties also needed to band together as they negotiate seats to contest for the next general election, widely rumoured to be called within months.
An official invitation letter to join Muafakat was sent to PM Muhyiddin as Bersatu's president. The letter dated Aug 13 and printed on a Muafakat Nasional letterhead was sighted by The Star online news.
The letter said Umno's president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi and PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang both welcomed Bersatu to join Muafakat.
Bersatu's acceptance letter, sent by Mr Muhyiddin was submitted on Tuesday (Aug 18), New Straits Times reported on Friday.
Muafakat's joint secretary Annuar Musa acknowledged receipt of Bersatu's acceptance letter.
"That's the spirit of syura (discussions) ... discussed and agreed upon by Muafakat Nasional on Aug 6," Tan Sri Annuar said in a tweet on Thursday evening. "The letter was sent on Aug 13... (on) Aug 18, we received a letter of agreement from the Most Honourable President of Bersatu."