Malaysia’s opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim said on Wednesday he had received a “strong majority” from lawmakers to form a new government, seven months after the coup within the ruling coalition, which toppled the elected administration in May 2018.
Anwar said he was “approached by several MPs from different parties” who were dissatisfied with the leadership of Prime Minister Muhaidin Yassin.
Sitting next to his wife, Anwar told a news conference that his support from lawmakers was “the fall of the Muhaidin administration” and stressed that his government had the mandate of the people.
He declined to release numbers supporting him, but said he would do so after seeking an audience with Raja, who is currently being treated at the National Heart Hospital in Kuala Lumpur.
Muhaidin became Malaysia’s prime minister in March, a week after political turmoil, when several disgruntled members of the then-ruling Pakatan Harapan coalition joined the parties that lost power in 2018. The move led to the resignation of 95-year-old Mahathir as prime minister.
Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim stressed to the PFM news that this is not equivalent to the Sheraton move because the MPs won the people’s mandate in the election.
The press conference, held by the Anwar faction at the Le Meridien Hotel, comes 7 months after Lanka Sheraton pic.twitter.com/7QLlLJ1dUM
– BFM News (ewNewsBFM) September 23, 2020
Anwar said Muhaidin’s government and its “70 ministers” had spent too much time “distributing positions, appointments and contracts” to stick to (a) very empty and razor-thin majority.
Even within the opposition ranks, Anwar’s support has not been confirmed. While the Islamist party Amana supported Anwar, local media reported that Mahathir had no new party.
Senior politicians of the United Malaysian National Organization (UMNO), which returned to power with Muhaidin, described Anwar’s move as a “trick”, while his former ally, Mohamed Azmin Ali, ended the administration of Pakatan Harapan and is now a minister. Of the international trade and industry, tweeted: “The irreparable liar and political psychopath.”
Bridget Welsh, a colleague at the Research Institute for Asia at the University of Nottingham and an expert in Malaysian politics, said the situation was a “war of words” and that Anwar should show numbers.
The campaign is currently underway in Sabah, Malaysia’s Borneo state, where Muhaidin’s coalition hopes to seize control of the state government from an opposition – friendly administration.
The state has emerged as a new breeding ground for COVID-19 in Malaysia, confirming the virus’ claim that people will not be able to vote.
“The Malaysian people deserve leadership that can go effectively in these turbulent times,” Anwar said in a statement. “Instead we have an unstable government, the inability to handle its crisis is driving the country towards recession and increasing ethnic tension.”