KUALA LUMPUR - Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin lost his majority in Parliament on Tuesday (Aug 3) after 11 Umno MPs withdrew support for his Perikatan Nasional (PN) government.
One Umno Cabinet minister also announced that he was quitting the government.
The Premier would have the support of 115 MPs if all of Umno supported him and the announcement on Tuesday indicated that he can now count on 104 MPs at most, several short of a majority. There are 38 Umno MPs in the 222-seat federal Parliament where two seats are vacant currently.
Malaysia’s largest party, which provides the most MPs in the PN administration, demanded the resignation of Tan Sri Muhyiddin following the open feud between the Premier and the palace last week.
Last Thursday, the King, Sultan Abdullah Ahmad Shah, rebuked the government for revoking ordinances under the state of emergency without his assent. The state of emergency was proclaimed by the monarch in January to deal with the worsening Covid-19 situation.
“To show our undivided loyalty to the King, the Umno Supreme Council unanimously withdraws support for the Perikatan Nasional government and Tan Sri Mahiaddin Yassin as Prime Minister,” Umno president Zahid Hamidi told a news conference after a meeting of the party’s highest decision-making body.
The Premier’s given name is used by critics in reference to how a court in April struck down a detention order he signed under his adopted name of Muhyiddin Yassin.
Besides Zahid, 10 other Umno MPs were at the press conference on Tuesday.
Energy and Natural Resources Minister Shamsul Anuar Nasarah, who quit the Cabinet just minutes earlier, was not in attendance.
Datuk Seri Shamsul had said that “as a loyal Umno member”, he had to leave the Cabinet after the party’s instruction to withdraw support for Mr Muhyiddin.
“My focus after this is on my duties as Lenggong MP and to help strengthen the party in facing an increasingly challenging political situation,” he said in a brief statement, which did not touch on whether he still supported the existing government.
Zahid on Tuesday also said a statement by the Premier that the emergency ordinances which the King had refused to revoke would be tabled in Parliament for annulment in September did not clarify the situation.
Instead, it “mocked the King, who has on many occasions ordered the emergency ordinances be debated before August 1 and not in the next parliamentary sitting in September”, said the former deputy premier.
He demanded that Mr Muhyiddin step down, and claimed that the government had fallen as he had presented to the King “enough” letters from Umno MPs withdrawing their support for it.
The majority of Umno MPs, though, have yet to abide by the party’s supreme council decision, insisting previously that they had been given a choice to vote according to their conscience.
Mr Muhyiddin’s ally Parti Islam SeMalaysia will be “meeting immediately”, its deputy president Tuan Ibrahim Tuan Man was quoted as saying in reaction to the move by Umno MPs.
The Premier is due to chair a Cabinet meeting on Wednesday (Aug 4), and by convention will have an audience with Sultan Abdullah before meeting his ministers.
Mr Muhyiddin has insisted that the Cabinet acted constitutionally in revoking the ordinances, saying the monarch was kept abreast of developments.
Umno has previously mooted the idea of an “interim PM” to lead the country out of the current crisis. The party is hoping that this will pave the way for fresh polls which it believes will return it to the dominance it enjoyed for six decades before the 2018 election.
The Straits Times reported on Monday that newly minted Deputy Premier Ismail Sabri Yaakob is gaining support among his colleagues to take on this role.
But Umno could also potentially name Malaysia’s longest-serving lawmaker, Gua Musang MP Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah, who is also seen as a potential compromise candidate between ruling and opposition parties.