Malaysia: PAS, Umno say they want polls, won't be part unity govt
Sources say interim PM poised to form non-partisan govt, but parties call for election to decide new PM
KUALA LUMPUR : Thrust, counter-thrust, thrust.
Welcome to the swashbuckling world of Malaysian politics.
First came the thrust.
Dr Mahathir Mohamad proposed to lead a unity government and invited lawmakers from across rival political parties to join, political sources said yesterday, after his shock resignation as premier on Monday.
Dr Mahathir, currently the interim prime minister, proposed the idea of a grand coalition to leaders of the major political parties he met yesterday morning, including those from his recently collapsed coalition and the parties they defeated in the 2018 election, the sources said.
"In the absence of another candidate, it appears that Mahathir is poised to form the government," one of four sources with direct knowledge of the matter said.
"There won't be any political entity. We might be a government of no parties," the source said.
A second source said: "The plan now is for a non-partisan unity government."
The sources did not want to be identified as they were not authorised to speak to the media. Dr Mahathir's office made no immediate comment.
Then came the counter-thrust.
Barisan Nasional and Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS) who were involved in the "unity meeting" are now calling for Parliament to be dissolved to give way to an election due to the current political uncertainty in the country.
In a special press conference yesterday, Umno secretary-general Annuar Musa said the power to decide should be returned to the people.
"The people's mandate should not be neglected. We ask that the Yang di-Pertuan (king) allow for Parliament to be dissolved," he said.
He added that in an audience with the King, Barisan Nasional, PAS and Parti Bersatu Rakyat Sabah MPs unanimously stated that they want a dissolution of Parliament.
Mr Annuar said a new mandate from the people is necessary to decide the country's future.
He also said they rejected Dr Mahathir Mohamad's proposal for a unity government. He said any proposal for a new coalition must exclude the Democratic Action Party (DAP).
He added they had retracted their statutory declaration in support for Dr Mahathir because it is for a new government without DAP, which both parties view as anti-Islam and anti-Malay.
And then another thrust?
Dr Mahathir may not need Umno and PAS.
Speculation is mounting that former Umno vice-president Hishammuddin Hussein may revive previous plans to defect with several other MPs to join a Mahathir administration.
Other parties across the board, too, have rallied to say they would support Dr Mahathir's return as full-time prime minister, with Mr Anwar Ibrahim's Parti Keadilan Rakyat the only major party not to offer a public endorsement.
No one has publicly staked a claim to be prime minister.
Two of the sources said Dr Mahathir's resignation meant a pre-election promise to hand power to Mr Anwar was no longer valid.
Through all this political drama, Malaysia's king took the unprecedented step of speaking to all 222 MPs to see who has the most support to be prime minister. He met one batch yesterday and will meet the next today.
Sultan Abdullah Ri'ayatuddin told reporters: Be patient. First let me do my duties. I hope we will find the best solution for our country." - REUTERS, THE STAR