Umno withdraws support for Malaysia PM Muhyiddin, calls for his resignation

Umno president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi (left) said Tan Sri Muhyiddin (right) has failed to fulfil the conditions underlined by Umno when it backed him to become Prime Minister.
Umno president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi (left) said Tan Sri Muhyiddin (right) has failed to fulfil the conditions underlined by Umno when it backed him to become Prime Minister.PHOTOS: UMNO, REUTERS

KUALA LUMPUR - Umno, the biggest party in Malaysia's ruling pact Perikatan Nasional, has resolved to withdraw its support for Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin and called for the Premier's resignation.

Umno president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said early on Thursday (July 8) that Tan Sri Muhyiddin has failed to fulfil the conditions underlined by Umno when it backed him to become prime minister in March last year - namely, to spearhead economic recovery and effectively handle the Covid-19 pandemic.

He said a new prime minister should be installed to manage the pandemic until an election can be called.

"This government has clearly failed in fulfilling the people's aspirations," Zahid said, pointing to prolonged lockdowns that have not been seen as effective and double standards in enforcing Covid-19 rules.

“The failure of this government is very apparent. It has misused the state of emergency proclamation, which is seen as nothing but a political ploy, and has only brought detriment to the people and its economy,” he added. 

Umno made the resolution during a meeting late on Wednesday night, hours after Mr Muhyiddin promoted two Umno senior leaders - Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob, to the post of deputy prime minister, and Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein, to senior minister for foreign affairs.

Zahid, however, said that Umno would not, as speculated, back opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim to be the new prime minister, nor would it support any administration led by federal opposition Pakatan Harapan (PH), which had governed the country for less than two years after winning historic polls in 2018. 

Thursday’s decision by the Supreme Council could increase tensions between two different camps within Umno - one that backs Mr Muhyiddin and another, led by Zahid, which has been critical of his administration.

It remains to be seen how the decision will be received by the just-appointed Deputy Prime Minister and Umno vice-president Ismail and Mr Hishamuddin, also a seasoned Umno leader and political blue blood. Both of them accepted their appointments by Mr Muhyiddin.

Another Umno MP, Nazri Abdul Aziz, previously revealed that as many as 25 out of 38 Umno MPs in Parliament were against Zahid’s move to withdraw support from Mr Muhyiddin, and would continue backing the Premier. 

However Mr Muhyiddin could easily lose his razor-thin majority in Parliament, even if just a handful of Umno MPs withdraw their support.

He has called for Parliament to sit for the first time this year for five days, starting from July 26, and now faces the prospect of losing crucial votes during the sitting. 

Mr Muhyiddin became premier in March last year after cobbling together a loose coalition with Umno and other parties and MPs after the collapse of the PH government. 

His administration began well in the initial stages of the Covid-19 pandemic, successfully curbing infections after imposing a shutdown in March last year.

However public dissatisfaction has grown this year after a state of emergency and a prolonged lockdown failed to halt soaring cases and deaths.

Under Mr Muhyiddin’s four-phase Covid-19 exit plan, the Malaysian economy is not due to reopen until after September this year, provided it can meet certain thresholds for hospitalisations, cases and vaccinations.

It has so far failed to move from the first phase to the second phase in most of the country, and case numbers and hospitalisations remain persistently high.