Anwar Ibrahim says he has ‘strong majority’ to form a new government in Malaysia

Asia

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia’s Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim announced on Wednesday (Sep 23) that he has garnered a ”strong, formidable, convincing majority” of Members of Parliament (MPs) to form a new government. 

The Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) president said in a press conference that as such, the current government led by Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin has fallen. 

READ: As Sabah heads to polls on Sep 26, what’s at stake for the main political blocs?

“I was supposed to have an audience with the king on Tuesday 11am but it was postponed because His Majesty was hospitalised,” said Mr Anwar, adding that he had spoken with the king on telephone on Tuesday night. 

On Tuesday evening, Istana Negara said Malaysian King Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah had been admitted to the National Heart Institute.

Malaysian king

Malaysian King Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah giving a royal address at parliament on May 18, 2020. (Photo: Bernama) 

When asked to reveal the list of MPs who are with him, Mr Anwar replied that he would only reveal this after the royal audience. 

He claimed that he has close to two-thirds parliamentary majority. “Not four, five or six … I’m talking about much more than that,” he said. 

Those who supported him, he said, would have to respect integrity, good governance, anti-corruption and the rule of law.

“Of course it is a Malay Bumiputera-majority, but a (government) that is inclusive of race and religious denominations in the country. That is a very clear position that I’m not prepared to compromise. I’m glad to say, those with me have decided and have strongly endorsed this position,” he noted. 

Previously, Mr Anwar had been tipped to take over from Dr Mahathir, who became the country’s seventh prime minister after Pakatan Harapan (PH) defeated Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition in the 2018 general election.

READ: Commentary - Malaysian politics is going through a midlife crisis

Mr Anwar, who was serving a jail term for sodomy, was granted a royal pardon days after PH’s shock victory.

The transition plan from Dr Mahathir to Mr Anwar had been a significant source of tension in PH as the former had repeatedly declined to give a concrete timetable as to when he would step aside for Mr Anwar to take the reins.

Mahathir Anwar Muhyiddin

Dr Mahathir Mohamad (right), Anwar Ibrahim (centre) and Muhyiddin Yassin leave after a press conference in Kuala Lumpur on Jun 1, 2018. (File photo: Mohd RASFAN / AFP) 

Dr Mahathir abruptly resigned in February and defectors from PH then worked with BN to form the Perikatan Nasional (PN) government. 

Mr Muhyiddin, president of Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu), became the prime minister, after the king met all MPs and found that Mr Muhyiddin likely commanded the support of majority of the lawmakers.

Dr Mahathir and his allies were subsequently removed from Bersatu. They later announced that they would form a new party called Pejuang

PH politicians have cried foul over PN’s political coup to wrest federal power, although the COVID-19 pandemic and government-instituted movement control order to stem the contagion temporarily abated much of the political feud. 

United Malays National Organisation, which has always held the prime minister position before BN’s fall and is now part of the PN government, has repeatedly called for a general election to be held to get rid of the “backdoor government” impression. 

Mr Muhyiddin, when campaigning in the ongoing Sabah state election, said a general election can be called if the state coalition he put together wins the Sabah polls on Sep 26. 

Mr Anwar is currently facing a lawsuit filed to challenge the legality of a royal pardon he received two years ago, with the dates for case management and trial fixed in 2021. 

MUHYIDDIN TO ADDRESS THE NATION IN THE AFTERNOON

In his Wednesday press conference, Mr Anwar revealed that Dr Mahathir’s Pejuang was not part of the majority support he has commanded. 

“He may decide later, but now, no,” he said. 

Parti Amanah Negara, a PH component party, has pledged its support for Mr Anwar.

“All 11 MPs from Parti Amanah Negara fully support the leadership of Datuk Seri Anwar as PH chairman and place trust in him to form a new government,” Amanah president Mohamad Sabu said in a statement that was issued shortly after Mr Anwar’s presser. 

Mr Muhyiddin was scheduled to give a live address at 2.30pm on Wednesday.

In an apparent response to Mr Anwar’s announcement, Minister for Science and Technology Khairy Jamaluddin tweeted a photo of a Cabinet meeting around noon. “Just finished Cabinet ministers’ meeting. Nothing has toppled or fallen,” he said. 

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