Muhyiddin needs alternative allies to remain in power

by AFIQ AZIZ & FARA AISYAH / graphic by MZUKRI MOHAMAD

PRIME Minister (PM) Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin (picture) will have to navigate his way to retain power via negotiations with other potential allies, including parties from Pakatan Harapan (PH).

Political analysts are of the opinion that the new alliances are necessary to stabilise the government, despite Umno’s recent decision to maintain its support for the Perikatan Nasional (PN) government.

Universiti Teknologi Malaysia Kuala Lumpur senior lecturer (political study) Dr Mazlan Ali said Muhyiddin, who leads a small Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia with just 31 seats in the Dewan Rakyat, now has the advantage as he has more room to manoeuvre in his quest to get more parties on his side.

Despite Muhyiddin‘s failure to obtain emergency powers from the rulers, Mazlan said the Pagoh MP still has sufficient support from the Palace to continue governing the nation and focus more on economic and health recovery.

On Sunday, Yang di-Pertuan Agong Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah had warned political parties to avoid any move that could destabilise the government.

Mazlan said Muhyiddin now has other options in seeking the support of other parties, instead of just hinging his fate merely on Umno’s support.

Currently, the PN government only rules with two majority seats in Parliament.

“We can say that Muhyiddin has lost his trust towards Umno. He will have to look for the next cause of action, including possibly a new cooperation with the PH bloc or different combinations to make up the numbers,” Mazlan told The Malaysian Reserve (TMR) in an interview.

After three long hours of deliberation on Monday night, Umno Supreme Council reaffirmed support for PN, while demanding for “better cooperation that is based on respect and political consensus”.

The decision reiterated Umno’s stance last week, which overturned the party’s earlier call to consider withdrawing from Muhyiddin’s administration.

A statement that was released after the meeting also called for a national reconciliation between the government and the Opposition to stabilise the nation.

Mazlan, however, said the “national reconciliation” agenda proposed by Umno might not be able to win Muhyiddin over, as illustrated in his move last Friday to propose the state of emergency to the King. The proposal was pushed forward despite Umno’s earlier commitment to support Muhyiddin’s administration.

On Monday, Parti Amanah Negara deputy president Datuk Seri Salahuddin Ayub said the Opposition is ready to be called to meet with the PM to discuss and deliberate on Budget 2021.

DAP, the single party with the most number of seats in Parliament at 42, has also offered Muhyiddin a way out, including agreeing to hold off elections until 2023, as stated by its organising secretary

Anthony Loke on Sunday. PKR president Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim said in a statement yesterday that elements in Budget 2021 should involve feedback from all parties including the Opposition to ensure a sustainable strategy that could particularly mitigate the impact of Covid-19 pandemic.

In total, PH now has 91 seats from the total 222 in the Dewan Rakyat.

Meanwhile, Barisan Nasional advisory board chairman and former Umno president Datuk Seri Mohd Najib Razak again defended his proposal for Umno to partner Anwar to topple Muhyiddin’s government.

Najib reiterated that Umno is now in federal power because of its openness to even work with former rivals PAS and Bersatu.

“This situation is actually benefitting Muhyiddin’s premiership.

He can strengthen his position towards the next general election (GE),” Mazlan said.

University of Tasmania’s Asia Institute director Prof James Chin observed that Najib seems to be regaining his control over Umno, as seen during the meeting on Monday evening.

Chin said sources who were at the Umno Supreme Council meeting indicated that Najib dominated the discussion.

“Not many people talked about what Ahmad Zahid (Umno president Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi) had said during the meeting, but a lot of people talked about what Najib had said. So, this indicates that Najib is really back in the picture,” Chin told TMR.

Chin added that Umno should not be too worried about its position as both Anwar and Muhyiddin are “competing” for the support of the Malay-based party.

“Anwar needs Umno’s support to become the next PM, while Muhyiddin needs Umno’s numbers to stay in power. So, it does not matter what stunts Umno pull,” he added.

Meanwhile, University of Malaya Assoc Prof Dr Awang Azman Awang Pawi is not too enthusiastic about Umno’s reconciliation proposal — whether with Bersatu or any party within the Opposition bloc — and whether it could be realised.

“I still think that this will be temporary. Umno will brush Bersatu aside in the next GE because they are sharing the same group of supporters and seats.

“Umno grassroots, including some leaders, are also not happy with how Bersatu treats Umno, but they have to cease fire for now to merely abide by the King’s decision,” he told TMR.