Umno threatens to pull out of Malaysia's ruling alliance PN unless it gets new terms

Umno secretary-general Ahmad Maslan (left) said the party is considering withdrawing support from Malaysian PM Muhyiddin Yassin's Perikatan Nasional, on Oct 13, 2020.
Umno secretary-general Ahmad Maslan (left) said the party is considering withdrawing support from Malaysian PM Muhyiddin Yassin's Perikatan Nasional, on Oct 13, 2020. PHOTOS: BERNAMA, REUTERS

KUALA LUMPUR - Malaysia’s largest ruling party Umno threatened on Tuesday (Oct 13) to pull out of Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin’s government, just hours after Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim claimed a parliamentary majority.

Should Umno, which ruled Malaysia since independence up to its shock defeat in 2018, carry out its threat, it would collapse the Muhyiddin administration which was only sworn in in March.

Umno information chief Ahmad Maslan said late on Tuesday that the party’s top leadership was mulling a withdrawal from the Perikatan Nasional (PN) government following a meeting chaired by president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, speculated to be among those supporting Datuk Seri Anwar’s bid to topple Tan Sri Muhyiddin.

“Umno is considering withdrawing support for PN and will present new conditions... to continue the political cooperation via a written agreement to be executed as soon as possible,” said Datuk Seri Ahmad Maslan.

He added that Umno will push for Muafakat Nasional (MN), a pro-Malay Muslim pact it spearheads along with Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS), to be registered as a formal political alliance.

Umno and Mr Muhyiddin’s Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia have been at loggerheads for months over primacy in the ruling pact.

Tensions boiled most recently after Bersatu gained the chief ministership of Sabah following the Sep 26 state polls, with senior figures in Umno questioning the wisdom of their cooperation with Bersatu.

PN in its registered form is led by Bersatu president Mr Muhyiddin, but Umno has resisted joining the official coalition amid heated negotiations over seats ahead of the general election expected within months.

The president of Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR), Mr Anwar, has insisted that he has support of over 120 MPs in the 222-strong Parliament after an audience with the King early on Tuesday.

It is understood that potential defectors from the Muhyiddin administration - which had just 113 MPs - were largely from Umno including those loyal to its president Zahid.

Should Umno - which has 39 MPs - turn its back on Mr Muhyiddin, he would cease to control Parliament. But it remains to be seen if enough lawmakers from the once dominant party would endorse Mr Anwar as premier.

It is unlikely that snap polls ahead of the parliamentary term’s expiry in 2023 would be called, given the resurgent wave of coronavirus infections that saw 660 new cases on Tuesday.

Mr Anwar, who leads the main opposition alliance Pakatan Harapan said that Malaysia’s King Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin is set to meet political leaders to ascertain who controls Parliament.