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PM Muhyiddin and Cabinet can still exercise executive powers despite UMNO's withdrawal: Attorney-General

PM Muhyiddin and Cabinet can still exercise executive powers despite UMNO's withdrawal: Attorney-General

Malaysia's Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin speaks during a news conference with senior ministers in Putrajaya, Malaysia March 11, 2020. REUTERS/Lim Huey Teng

KUALA LUMPUR: Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin and his Cabinet ministers can continue to exercise their federal executive powers, as there is no clear evidence to show that he no longer has the support of the majority of lawmakers in parliament, said Malaysia’s Attorney-General Idrus Harun on Thursday (Jul 8). 

Mr Idrus issued a media statement just hours after United Malays National Organisation's (UMNO) president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi announced that the party has withdrawn its support for the Muhyiddin-led government, while urging for the prime minister to step down.

The attorney-general's statement said: "Referring to the media statement issued by the UMNO president dated Jul 7, it is a statement from a component party that forms the existing government that was appointed by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong pursuant to Article 43 (1) and (2) of the Federal Constitution. 

"As it stands now, the government has no clear facts proving that the prime minister no longer garners the support of majority of the members of the House of Representatives." 

He added: "Based on Article 43 (2) (a) of the Federal Constitution, determination of whether (a leader) earns the confidence of the majority of the members of the House of Representatives shall be determined by the members of the House of Representatives themselves and not through statements by a political party or any party leader politics."

"Therefore, in legal terms, YAB Prime Minister and the existing Cabinet ministers can still exercise executive federal powers."

READ: Malaysian parliament to meet from Jul 26 to pave the way for hybrid sitting, says prime minister's office

In his initial announcement on Thursday morning, Ahmad Zahid said: "UMNO urges Muhyiddin Yasin to withdraw honourably to enable a new prime minister to be appointed for a limited period."

The new prime minister would only focus efforts on the people's welfare throughout the pandemic, handle COVID-19 with an inclusive approach and ensure the vaccination and immunisation process could be sped up.

Once herd immunity was achieved, he said, this prime minister must advise the king to return the people's mandate to hold the 15th general election.

Ahmad Zahid also stated that UMNO will not support opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim as prime minister. His party will also not support any coalition together with Pakatan Harapan or the Democratic Action Party.

In a Facebook post on Thursday, former prime minister Najib Razak backed the proposal for an interim government.

"I believe that the decision of the UMNO supreme council to withdraw its support for Muhyiddin (and not about withdrawing support from the PN government) is to give way to an interim administration with a temporary limit and fixed goals to resolve the COVID-19 situation, provide aid to the people and achieve the herd immunity through vaccinations before dissolving parliament and returning the mandate to the people, is the right decision, ” he said.

PH CALLS FOR MUHYIDDIN TO RESIGN 

In a statement on Thursday evening, leaders from opposition coalition Pakatan Harapan called for Mr Muhyiddin to resign as he has lost support from the majority of MPs. 

The statement, jointly issued by Parti Keadilan Rakyat president Anwar Ibrahim, Parti Amanah Negara president Mohamad Sabu and Democratic Action Party secretary-general Lim Guan Eng, stated that when the head of PN's largest component party, UMNO, announced that it has withdrawn support, the prime minister has lost the support of majority of MPs. 

"Therefore, YAB Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin must resign with honour because he has lost his support and legitimacy as prime minister," the statement said.

The statement added that PH's presidential council is of the view that this is not the right time to hold general election, state elections or by-elections given the high number of COVID-19 cases and the increasing pressure on Malaysia's health infrastructure. 

READ: Commentary - Even if PM Muhyiddin steps down, few good options for Malaysia’s top role

UMNO's status as a partner within the ruling Perikatan Nasional (PN) government, led by Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu) under Mr Muhyiddin, had been increasingly called into question.

During the UMNO general assembly in March this year, the party had concluded it would withdraw support for the PN government if there were no indications of a general election within the near future. 

Earlier in March, the party had also indicated it would not cooperate with Bersatu once the current parliament was dissolved. 

Ismail Sabri Yaakob (left) and Hishammuddin Hussein. (File photo: Bernama)

On Wednesday, Mr Muhyiddin reshuffled his Cabinet, promoting senior minister for defence Ismail Sabri Yaakob to deputy prime minister.

Mr Hishammuddin Hussein, who held the foreign affairs portfolio, was promoted to senior minister as well. 

There had been speculation that some UMNO leaders, including Mr Ismail Sabri and Mr Hishammuddin, are against the idea of a breakaway from PN at this juncture when there is a pandemic.

Several Cabinet members and senior government officials were reportedly seen entering Mr Muhyiddin's residence on Thursday morning for discussions.

UMNO'S DECISION TO WITHDRAW NOT MADE BY PARTY PRESIDENT ALONE: AHMAD ZAHID

On Thursday, Malaysian media, citing sources, said that Ahmad Zahid’s announcement the night before did not reflect the decision of the entire party supreme council.

In a Facebook post on Thursday afternoon, Ahmad Zahid stressed that UMNO's decision to withdraw from the PN government was done in the interest of the country and its people. 

UMNO president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi. (File photo: Bernama)

"Everything is decided constitutionally, deliberatively and wisely. Based on the welfare of the people and the country," he said. 

"So it is not true, based on propaganda and perception that is often conjured, that the UMNO president makes his own decisions for the party," he added. 

"It is also proven that UMNO is not a party that can compromise when it involves the interests of the people and the country."

Source: CNA/am

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