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Jakarta Post

Mahathir says opposition lacks votes to oust Muhyiddin

  • Yantoultra Ngui and Chan Tien Hin

    Bloomberg

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia   /   Mon, March 16, 2020   /   12:20 pm
Mahathir says opposition lacks votes to oust Muhyiddin Malaysia's interim Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad gestures during a press conference after unveiling an economic stimulus plan aimed at combating the impact from the COVID-19 novel coronavirus at the Prime Minister's Office in Putrajaya on February 27, 2020. (AFP/Mohd Rasfan)

Malaysia’s former leader Mahathir Mohamad warned that the opposition coalition may lack the support needed to remove the current government, while criticizing his long-time rival Anwar Ibrahim for the collapse of his administration.

The Pakatan Harapan alliance, which was ousted from power last month, now had the backing of about 108 lawmakers, from 114 the morning before Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin was inaugurated, Mahathir said in a Bloomberg Television interview with Haslinda Amin. Earlier he had called for an immediate confidence vote once parliament reconvenes, which is now scheduled for May 18.

“We don’t have the majority in parliament,” Mahathir, 94, said in Kuala Lumpur on Monday. “I don’t think a vote of no confidence will resolve the problem.”

Mahathir abruptly resigned last month amid bickering within the Pakatan Harapn coalition, leading to the collapse of the reformist government less than two years after a stunning election win against a bloc that had ruled Malaysia for about six decades. Muhyiddin, who has long served at his side, emerged as the new premier backed by a bloc including key political parties that lost power in 2018 -- a move Mahathir called a betrayal.

Hours before Muhyiddin’s inauguration, Mahathir called for a confidence vote in parliament and disputed the new premier’s claim that he had the backing of a majority of lawmakers. Mahathir has since tempered his calls, going so far as to tell a local newspaper that he expects the current government to last until Malaysia’s next election.

Mahathir’s own loyalty has been questioned after he exited, returned and again left the Pakatan Harapan alliance. The Bersatu party he founded remains split between the government and the opposition, with a few lawmakers pledging to back him even though Muhyiddin still holds the party presidency.

Mahathir’s government collapsed in part due to tensions over whether he would honor a promise made during the 2018 election campaign to hand power to Anwar Ibrahim, who has long waited to take power. While Anwar told reporters last week that Mahathir is no long a member of the opposition coalition, the former prime minister disputed that in the interview.

“He has always been campaigning to get me to resign earlier,” Mahathir said of Anwar. “His boys even say nasty things about me. You know some of them are quite violent in their choice of words.”

Mahathir is Malaysia’s longest-serving leader, having served as prime minister for about a quarter-century in two stints.