Umno mulls pulling out of Malaysia's ruling coalition Perikatan Nasional

Malaysia's Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin speaks during a news conference in Putrajaya, Malaysia, on March 11, 2020.
PHOTO: Reuters

KUALA LUMPUR - The biggest party in Malaysia’s ruling coalition said it was considering pulling out, striking a blow to Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin in the midst of a challenge from opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim.

Anwar met the country’s king earlier on Tuesday to prove he has the parliamentary majority to form a new government and called on Muhyiddin to resign.

Muhyiddin’s administration has survived on a two-seat majority in parliament since coming to power in March. United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), the biggest party in his coalition, said it wanted to renegotiate the terms of its support for the ruling coalition, Perikatan Nasional.

“UMNO is considering withdrawing support for Perikatan Nasional (PN) and will present new conditions to the PN government to continue with the political cooperation, in writing as soon as possible,” the party’s secretary general Ahmad Maslan said in statement late on Tuesday.

He did not say what new terms the UMNO party was seeking.

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Party members had become increasingly unhappy about playing second fiddle to Muhyiddin’s Bersatu party despite being the biggest party in the coalition, UMNO sources have told Reuters.

UMNO was defeated in a 2018 election, its first loss since Malaysia emerged from British colonial rule over 60 years ago.

But it returned to power in March by forming an alliance with Muhyiddin’s Bersatu party after the collapse of the Mahathir Mohamad-led coalition.

UMNO had said last month that some of the party lawmakers supported Anwar’s premiership bid.

King Al-Sultan Abdullah is set to decide the next steps in Malaysia’s power struggle, which comes as it grapples with an economy battered by the novel coronavirus and a new surge in infections.

The king will meet with party leaders to verify Anwar’s claim of support, Anwar has said.