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Malaysia political coalitions sign agreement backing PM Anwar's unity government

The agreement signed by all coalition leaders in Mr Anwar’s administration is likely to help him secure the vote of confidence from 148 members of parliament on Monday. 

Malaysia political coalitions sign agreement backing PM Anwar's unity government

Malaysian Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim (centre) with other political coalition leaders after the signing of the memorandum of understanding on the unity government on Dec 16, 2022. (Photo: Prime Minister’s Office of Malaysia/Afiq Hambali)

KUALA LUMPUR: The leaders of five political coalitions and parties in the government of Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to support his administration on Friday (Dec 16).    

The MOU, among other things, stated that all parties in the respective coalitions should vote to support the prime minister in all matters related to confidence and supply, and matters that can affect the legitimacy of the government.

In a press conference after witnessing the signing, Mr Anwar said: “We have reached a consensus with a clear goal to develop the country and ensure that our political system is stable. 

“We will focus on matters of good governance and drive more convincing economic growth.

“This cannot be achieved without the cooperation of the party leaders from the peninsula, Sabah and Sarawak.”

Mr Anwar, who is also Pakatan Harapan (PH) chairman, added that the MOU was agreed upon based on the desire for good governance and economic growth. 

“It is not a matter of position or reward but principles and policies based on good governance and (in ensuring) vibrant economic growth,” he said. 

“I hope this unity government will be a strong team that can resolve any problems that arise and that will be one voice.”

Alongside Mr Anwar, the MOU was jointly signed by Barisan Nasional (BN) chairman Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS) chairman Abang Johari Openg, Gabungan Rakyat Sabah (GRS) chairman Hajiji Noor and Parti Warisan (Warisan) president Shafie Apdal.

Mr Anwar was sworn in as prime minister on Nov 24 after Malaysia's 15th general election. He leads a unity government comprising his coalition PH and the previous ruling coalition BN, among other parties.

Ahmad Zahid is also one of two deputy prime ministers in Mr Anwar's Cabinet.

In his remarks, Ahmad Zahid said that the MOU would safeguard the rights enshrined under the Federal Constitution, including on Islam, the Malay language, the position of the Malays, as well as the Malay rulers.

On other issues related to the Borneo states, Mr Shafie Apdal said: “One of the things that I am very interested about in the content of this agreement is about Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63) which is embedded in this formation of the unity government.” 

Article 2.9 of the MOU states that a fair political and economic position between the peninsula and Borneo states will be advocated in accordance with the MA63 framework. 

On Dec 5, Mr Anwar previously stated that he directed his deputy Mr Fadillah Yusof to expedite matters related to the MA63. The latter is the chief whip of GPS. 

MA63 refers to the status of Sabah and Sarawak as equal partners with Malaya as the original founders of the Malaysian federation in 1963.

When the federation was formed that year, the Malaysian Constitution listed the Borneo states separately from the rest, on par with Malaya spelt out in the agreement.

Speaking to CNA’s Asia Now, Dr Oh Ei Sun said that one of the main provisions of the MOU is that Mr Anwar must consult the other chiefs in the unity government before he makes Cabinet appointments and dismissals.

“In return, these other coalition parties would pledge their support towards him, Anwar Ibrahim, as the prime minister of Malaysia. It's laying out what we sort of understood over the last two weeks, but now it's in black and white,” said Dr Oh, a senior fellow at the Singapore Institute of International Affairs.

The first thing the unity government needs to tackle is political stability, he said, noting that if Mr Anwar passes the vote of confidence, it will give him a period of stability.

He will have to use that stability "very carefully" to revive the economy, Dr Oh said, adding that Mr Anwar – who is also the finance minister – has about a month to draft the next budget.

On Wednesday, Mr Anwar stated that he was confident of passing a vote of confidence on his leadership as prime minister, scheduled to be held in parliament on Dec 19.

With the MOU and support from the coalition leaders, Mr Anwar is said to be able to get about 148 members of parliament to give him the vote of confidence on Monday. 

Mr Anwar had earlier stated the confidence vote would be tabled in parliament to end questions about the legitimacy of his government.

This came after the recent election produced no clear winner, with neither PH - which won 82 seats - nor the rival Perikatan Nasional coalition - which clinched 74 seats - securing a simple majority in the 222-seat Lower House.

"Party leaders from PH, BN, GPS, GRS and a few other parties have given their commitment, and God willing we can proceed well and I ask for prayers for the best," Mr Anwar said.

Source: CNA/ya(nm)

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