Malaysia's opposition, key ally reject PM's offer for bipartisan support

PHOTO: Facebook/ts.muhyiddin

KUALA LUMPUR – Malaysia's opposition parties and a key ally have rejected a plea for support from embattled Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin in exchange for political and electoral reforms, urging him to resign immediately.

Muhyiddin's grip on power has been shaky since coming to office in March 2020 with a slim majority and unstable coalition. He has defied mounting calls to quit, with the pressure reaching fever pitch this month after some lawmakers in his ruling coalition withdrew support.

In a televised address on Friday (Aug 13), Muhyiddin acknowledged for the first time that he lacks a majority and urged opposition lawmakers to back him in a confidence vote, in a bid to shore up his government and prevent an election during a Covid-19 resurgence.

In return for their support, Muhyiddin promised to amend the constitution to limit a prime minister's period in office to two five-year terms, introduce an "anti-hopping" law to prevent elected officials from jumping parties, and ensure the minimum voting age is immediately lowered to 18 from 21.

"This is the first time in Malaysia's history where a prime minister admits that he has lost majority support yet continues to openly solicit opposition support," the main opposition bloc Pakatan Harapan said in a statement late on Friday.

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It called Muhyiddin "a prime minister without legitimacy", saying his offers were "insincere" – as the prime minister should have made them earlier, not at what they called the end of his political life.

Opposition parties and key ally United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) blasted Muhyiddin's offers, which also include increased funds for opposition lawmakers, as "bribery".

UMNO, which said Muhyiddin was obliged to resign, has regularly challenged the prime minister even after agreeing to form a government with him last year. Some UMNO lawmakers withdrew support for him this month.

"UMNO cannot consider all offers from someone who no longer has legitimacy" as prime minister, UMNO president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said in a statement.