KUALA LUMPUR: The United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) has withdrawn its support for the Perikatan Nasional government led by Malaysian Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin and called for his resignation, said UMNO president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi on Wednesday (Jul 7).
In a late night online press conference held after UMNO's supreme council meeting, Ahmad Zahid criticised the government’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Ahmad Zahid said that UMNO had supported Mr Muhyiddin as prime minister based on the condition that he could fulfill two major guidelines determined by the supreme council back on Mar 11 in 2020.
"These were ensuring the people's aspirations were truly realised, and that the government should quickly control the economic downturn and devise an effective plan to handle the COVID-19 pandemic," said Ahmad Zahid.
These guidelines were not fulfilled, said Ahmad Zahid, adding that the government had failed in seven aspects, such as pandemic management, misusing Malaysia's state of emergency for political purposes and failing to defend the country's parliamentary democracy.
Based on the unanimous decision by delegates at UMNO's 2020 Annual General Meeting and the government's failures, Ahmad Zahid said support for Mr Muhyiddin's prime-ministership has been withdrawn with immediate effect.
"UMNO urges Muhyiddin Yasin to withdraw honourably to enable a new prime minister to be appointed for a limited period," he said.
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.
READ: Commentary - Even if PM Muhyiddin steps down, few good options for Malaysia’s top role
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, he said.
The announcement came after Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin reshuffled his Cabinet on Wednesday, 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.
UMNO's status as a partner within the ruling Perikatan Nasional (PN) government, led by Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu) under Mr Muhyiddin, has 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.
READ: UMNO can withdraw from Perikatan Nasional 'any time' if polls are not called soon, says Ahmad Zahid
Earlier in March, the party had also indicated it would not cooperate with Bersatu once the current parliament was dissolved.
There has 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.
In the lead-up to Wednesday's supreme council meeting, Malaysian media reported that party president Ahmad Zahid had lost the support of 25 out of the 38 UMNO lawmakers in the parliament, following his alleged overtures to back Mr Anwar.
Malaysian media also reported that an audio recording between Ahmad Zahid and Mr Anwar discussing the proceedings of UMNO's general assembly was in fact authentic. The UMNO leader had initially denied having the conversation.