Anwar Ibrahim sworn in as Malaysia’s 10th PM
KUALA LUMPUR – Pakatan Harapan (PH) chief Anwar Ibrahim was sworn in as Malaysia’s new prime minister on Thursday evening, as a slew of parties including Umno agreed to the proposal by Malaysia’s King to form a unity government.
Even PH’s main rival for power, Perikatan Nasional (PN), said it would now consider the formation of such an administration, backpedalling from chairman Muhyiddin Yassin’s outright rejection on Tuesday.
“The meeting agreed to weigh up the suggestion of a unity government that involves discussions with like-minded parties for the sake of the public and national stability,” secretary general Hamzah Zainudin said after the coalition met Thursday.
The positive response to a unity government came after a special meeting of the Malay rulers where Sultan Abdullah Ahmad Shah began conferring with the nation’s nine state monarchs to find a way out of the political imbroglio after Saturday’s election did not produce a clear winner who could form the next government.
The decision of Umno’s supreme council, after a four-hour meeting on Wednesday night, has yet to be endorsed by the wider Barisan Nasional (BN) that the party leads, as well as the coalition’s 30 MPs.
However, Parti Bersatu Rakyat Sabah, one of the five BN allies, said that while the pact has not endorsed the position, “we will need to reconsider our position so that our country can form a stable government,” according to its deputy president Joseph Kurup.
“The supreme council unanimously decided to uphold the King’s decree for BN to support and participate in a unity government not led by Perikatan Nasional (PN) to ensure a stable and prosperous administration can be formed,” Umno secretary-general Ahmad Maslan said in a statement on Thursday.
PN chief Muhyiddin Yassin, along with his PH counterpart, Datuk Seri Anwar, had audiences with the King on Tuesday where he surfaced the possibility of a unity government.
Although it was “well received” by Parti Keadilan Rakyat president Anwar, Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia president Muhyiddin refused to participate in a joint administration with his fierce rivals in PH, claiming that he had the backing of 115 out of Parliament’s 222 members.
But on Thursday afternoon, even Gabungan Rakyat Sabah, which has six MPs and is led by Bersatu’s chapter in the eastern state, said it would back a unity government.
Explaining Umno’s decision, supreme council member Puad Zarkashi said that “many reporters asked PH or PN. The answer is simple. PN rejected the unity government”.
The council also gave its full backing for president Zahid Hamidi to continue leading BN. He has come under fire from allies for pledging BN’s 30 MPs to Mr Anwar on Tuesday despite the coalition deciding to remain neutral.
A letter signed off by leaders of all three BN allies, seen by The Straits Times, calls on Zahid to relinquish the chairmanship, and for disciplinary action to be taken if the former deputy premier refuses.
The Straits Times has learnt that frontrunners to be Mr Anwar's deputy is Umno’s number two Mohamad Hasan, with another likely to come from Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS).
A crushing defeat for the once-dominant BN posited both Mr Anwar and Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia president Muhyiddin as the front runners to become prime minister, with their parties leading blocs of 82 and 79 MPs respectively.
Mr Muhyiddin’s ally, Parti Islam SeMalaysia president Hadi Awang, insisted on Thursday morning that PN was “still in the lead” and called on supporters to “stay calm. We are working it out.”
However, there are indications of more upheavals. The Straits Times has learnt that GPS, which previously pledged its 23 MPs to Mr Muhyiddin, is set to meet at 4pm to confirm it will abide by the King’s wish for a unity government.
This comes after the Democratic Action Party (DAP) reached out for peace talks with Sarawak’s ruling coalition. Secretary general Anthony Loke said he met with the eastern state’s premier Abang Johari Openg - whose GPS has repeatedly refused to work with PH, especially DAP - on Friday morning.
“I informed the premier that if there has been any statement by any DAP leader that has hurt the government or people of Sarawak, on behalf of DAP I openly apologise,” he said after the meeting in state capital Kuching which was also attended by deputy Sarawak premier Sim Kui Hian.
“I hope this meeting will pave the way to build an understanding and cooperation for the sake of a more developed and progressive Malaysia.”
DAP chairman Lim Guan Eng, under whose tenure as finance minister relations with GPS further soured, also apologised for his “remarks that may have offended the Sarawak Premier and the GPS Sarawak state government”.
“Let us make a fresh start to cooperate together to preserve the diversity, inclusiveness and unity of our multi-racial and multi-cultural society as well as protect our Federal Constitution for the benefit of all in Peninsular Malaysia, Sabah and Sarawak.”