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Malaysia’s PM Muhyiddin allies agree to formalise Perikatan Nasional but no electoral pact in sight

This boosts Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin ahead of May 18's parliamentary sitting. PHOTO: AFP. Sketched by the Pan Pacific Agency.

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KUALA LUMPUR, May 17, 2020, The Straits Times. Malaysia’s ruling parties announced Sunday (May 17) their support for the establishment of Perikatan Nasional (PN), the loose alliance led by Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin that came to power more than two months ago, The Straits Times reported.

This boosts the Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia president ahead of Monday’s parliamentary sitting after weeks of intense scrutiny over whether he commands the majority of the legislature.

But the joint statement by two coalitions and four parties – Bersatu, Barisan Nasional, PAS, Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS), United Sabah Party (PBS) and the Homeland Solidarity Party (STAR) – mentioned only that a “memorandum of understanding… has been framed” but does not detail any political arrangement.

“There is no mention of political, especially electoral cooperation. If the MoU is not expanded in future, it will be as some in Bersatu feared, that they will be left out in the cold at the next election,” BowerGroupAsia’s political analyst Adib Zalkapli told The Straits Times.

The stated goals of the memorandum are largely policy statements regarding race relations, economic prosperity and social welfare.

Top figures in Umno – whose president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi chairs the Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition, the largest bloc in PN – and the Islamist PAS have repeatedly asserted that they backed Tan Sri Muhyiddin only to oust the Pakatan Harapan (PH) government, with no plans to continue the alliance into the next election due in 2023.

Mr Muhyiddin led over 40 MPs out of PH in February, depriving the Mahathir Mohamad administration of its majority just 21 months after it had historically ended Umno’s six-decade grip on power at the 2018 election.

Sarawak’s ruling GPS has also indicated it will support the government but not enter a formal coalition.

Still, Sunday’s agreement ties together at least 112 MPs – the minimum required for a simple majority in Parliament – on paper for the government a day before Parliament sits for the first time since Mr Muhyiddin was installed as prime minister.

The premier caused controversy last week after ordering the Speaker to adjourn proceedings to July 13 immediately after the King’s annual opening speech on Monday, effectively blocking attempts by the opposition to call for a vote against him.

Speaker Ariff Yusof had on May 8 accepted former premier Mahathir’s request for a motion of no-confidence in Mr Muhyiddin.

Top leaders of opposition parties on Sunday accused the government of lacking legitimacy “arising from the failure of Tan Sri Muhyiddin to test his support among MPs”.

In a joint statement, they also pointed to how RM35 billion (S$11.5 billion) in government spending announced over a month ago to rescue the economy from the coronavirus outbreak has yet to be approved in Parliament.

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