KUALA LUMPUR - Malaysian Attorney-General Idrus Harun has said that Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin and his ministers can continue exercising their federal executive powers as there were no clear facts to show that he no longer enjoys the majority support of lawmakers in Parliament.
The country's legal adviser issued the statement on Thursday (July 8), in response to Umno's announcement late on Wednesday that it no longer supported the Prime Minister.
"Based on Article 43(2)(a) of the Federal Constitution, the determination of whether someone has the confidence of the majority of the Lower House members must be determined by the members of the Lower House themselves, and not through any announcement by a political party or any political leader," he said.
Malaysia was thrown into uncertainty over whether Tan Sri Muhyiddin remains its leader after Umno - the biggest party in Malaysia's ruling pact Perikatan Nasional (PN) - late on Wednesday night resolved to withdraw its support for the Premier and called for his resignation.
While many are expecting the collapse of the PN administration, political pundits believe that the move is not enough to unseat the Muhyiddin administration.
Sunway University political scientist Wong Chin Huat said that allowing Mr Muhyiddin to stay in power as a minority government is the most "reasonable solution", as the country cannot go without a government or have an election now.
This is because Malaysia is currently in a state of emergency and Parliament has been suspended.
"Without a formal defeat in the House, the only way to change the government is to present an alternative positive majority to the Palace, effectively a 'constructive vote of no-confidence'," he said.
Chiming in, Democratic Action Party (DAP) leader P. Ramasamy said Umno's decision might not have the desired effect as it is evident that a faction of the party's MPs do not hold the same belief as party president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi.
"As long as a sizeable number of Umno MPs, especially those holding positions in the government, are with Muhyiddin, the government might not be toppled that easily," he said in a statement on Thursday.
Umno late on Wednesday resolved to withdraw its support for Mr Muhyiddin, citing the latter's "failure" to fulfil the conditions underlined by Umno when it backed him to become prime minister in March last year.
The decision by the Supreme Council came hours after the premier 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.
The move to elevate the two senior Umno lawmakers was seen by political observers as an attempt to influence the council's deliberations as a faction headed by Zahid wants the party to break away from PN, while a rival faction, which includes Mr Ismail and Mr Hishammuddin, prefers to keep the status quo and stay in power with PN until the next general election can be held, pursuant to the party's resolution at its last general assembly.
Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia president Muhyiddin will lose his razor-thin majority in the 222-seat Parliament without the support of Umno's 38 MPs.
In Wednesday's meeting, Zahid also said a new prime minister should be installed to manage the Covid-19 pandemic until an election can be called, and that his party would not back opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim to be the new prime minister nor support any administration led by federal opposition Pakatan Harapan (PH).
But, by rejecting Mr Anwar's prime-ministership and partnership with PH's Democratic Action Party, Umno has simply "shot itself in the foot", said Dr Wong.
"The move can only make the PN government officially a minority one, but cannot end the latter's tenure," he added.
"A formal defeat of the government can be initiated by the Opposition in three ways: a vote of no confidence, a rejection of the Royal Address and a defeat of the Budget. The first option is a dead end as long as the Speaker can hold the fort for the government, while the second and third options would only appear in the next parliamentary meeting, not the currently five-day meeting."
In a veiled response to Umno's decision, its ally Islamist party Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS) called on political leaders to focus on managing the pandemic.
"Full concentration must be given to safeguard the lives and survival of the people. In fact, it is obligatory to help each other regardless of religion and race. PAS calls on the people as a whole to support the National Recovery Plan implemented by the government," said deputy president Tuan Ibrahim Tuan Man in a statement on Thursday.
On Thursday morning, several vehicles were seen entering Mr Muhyiddin's home, according to news portal Malaysia Gazette. They were believed to be ferrying Attorney-General Idrus Harun, Mr Ismail, as well as de facto law minister Takiyuddin Hassan who is also PAS' secretary-general.
Meanwhile, veteran Umno politician Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah said he is ready to shoulder the responsibility of being interim prime minister in the event of another political crisis.
"It might be an overwhelming task to even try, but if it becomes one's responsibility, one must bear it for the benefit of the people," he said during a programme hosted by Malay daily Sinar Harian on Wednesday night.