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Malaysia’s Mahathir Gets Green Light to Test Parliamentary Support for PM Muhyiddin

Hadi Azmi
Kuala Lumpur
2020-05-08
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Malaysia’s Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin answers a question during a news conference in the administrative capital Putrajaya, March 11, 2020.
Malaysia’s Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin answers a question during a news conference in the administrative capital Putrajaya, March 11, 2020.
Reuters

Malaysian Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin could face a leadership challenge when parliament convenes on May 18, after House Speaker Mohamad Ariff Md Yusof said Friday that he had approved a motion proposing a confidence vote.

Former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, 94, on Monday submitted a one-page legislative proposal seeking a decision on whether his successor commands the confidence of a majority of the lawmakers.

“The motion … is accepted to be brought to a parliamentary meeting in the future,” said Mohamad Ariff, referring to Mahathir’s proposal.

Mohamad Ariff, in a statement, said that as speaker of the Lower House he had to “study and ensure all motions put forward fulfill and abide by the standing orders.”

“Whatever consideration and decision by the speaker of the Lower House must be fair and uphold the integrity of the House,” said Mohamad Ariff.

However, it was not immediately clear whether parliament would undertake a no-confidence vote against Muhyiddin when it convenes on May 18 for the first time since his government came to power in early March.

Muhyiddin, who will turn 73 this month, did not issue a reaction to the statement by the speaker, but posted a picture on his Facebook page on Friday showing him receiving a phone call from U.S. President Donald Trump, during which the two leaders discussed bilateral cooperation.

“In the conversation lasting about 30 minutes, President Trump and I also discussed the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as the approaches taken by both countries,” Muhyiddin said.

“We also stressed the importance of cooperation among the international community to ease the effects of the pandemic on the well-being of the people in the world and the global economy,” he added.

Malaysian health authorities reported 68 new coronavirus infections with no fatalities on Friday, taking the cumulative cases to 6,535 with 107 deaths. On the other hand, almost 76,000 COVID-19 deaths and 1.3 million infections have been recorded in the United States, officials said.

Mahathir’s move came less than three months after he was lost power to Muhyiddin, his former political ally. He made the legislative proposal two months after telling a local newspaper, Sinar Harian, that it was impossible to challenge Muhyiddin, saying the premier had been strengthening his position by awarding “incentives” to other politicians.

“Now he is the government. He can afford to offer incentives to many. Some of my supporters have switched allegiances to him; they have been made ministers,” Mahathir said. “So now to bring a motion of no confidence is impossible.”

In an interview with The Australian newspaper on Friday, the two-time former prime minister said he took the move without being motivated by revenge or hubris.

“I am 94 and in two months I turn 95 and I have no ambition to become PM,” he said, just hours after Mohamad Ariff gave permission for Mahathir’s no-confidence motion to be tabled on May 18.

Meanwhile, the Pakatan Harapan (Alliance of Hope) on Thursday selected Anwar Ibrahim, who once served as Mahathir's deputy, as its parliamentary opposition leader, according to the state-run news service Bernama.

Lex Radz and Nisha David in Kuala Lumpur contributed to the article.

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