Malaysian cabinet backs PM amid coalition infighting

Malaysia's Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin waves to reporters before his cabinet announcement in Putrajaya, Malaysia, on March 9, 2020.
PHOTO: Reuters

KUALA LUMPUR - Malaysian cabinet ministers on Wednesday (July 14) unanimously pledged their support for Muhyiddin Yassin to continue as prime minister, amid a new round of political uncertainty after the premier lost the backing of the country's biggest party.

The United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), a key ally in the ruling coalition, withdrew support for Muhyiddin last week and called on him to resign for failing to manage the country's Covid-19 crisis. 

That decision came hours after Muhyiddin appointed a senior UMNO member as his deputy, in a move seen as a bid to ease months of infighting. Some UMNO lawmakers have been unhappy playing second fiddle to the premier's own party.

UMNO ministers in government, who hold key portfolios such as health, defence and foreign affairs, however did not say that they would quit following the party's withdrawal.

In a statement on Wednesday, cabinet ministers, including those from UMNO, said they had made "a unanimous decision to continue giving their full support" to Muhyiddin's leadership as prime minister.

The government's current priority was to ensure the success of a national post-pandemic recovery plan, the ministers said.

"The cabinet ministers would also like to inform that every government decision is made collectively by the cabinet after taking into account the opinions of all quarters," they said.

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Malaysia's attorney-general has said UMNO's withdrawal will not affect the position of Muhyiddin or his cabinet, as the question of his house majority can only be determined by parliament.

Parliament is scheduled to hold a five-day special meeting from July 26, the first meeting after it was suspended in January when a national emergency was declared to deal with the coronavirus.

Muhyiddin has a slim two-seat parliamentary majority, with UMNO comprising 37 of its 113 lawmakers. The premier's party, Bersatu, holds 31.