Anwar need not worry about today’s vote of confidence, but must distance himself from Zahid

Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim

Malaysia’s 10th Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, will today face a vote of confidence in the first session of the country’s 15th Parliament.

The decision to prove his legitimacy is wise, said political analyst Professor Dr Azeem Fazwan Ahmad Farouk, as Anwar has enough support.

That support was strengthened on Friday after the coalition parties in the government signed a memorandum of understanding to support Anwar and his administration in any confidence motions or bills in the Dewan Rakyat.

Those who vote against the government are deemed to have resigned as a MP. However, several lawyers said that clause is illegal and the affected MPs could bring the matter to court.

“PN’s (Perikatan Nasional) Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin previously claimed he had the support of 115 MPs and should be the ‘legitimate’ prime minister,” said Azeem.

In Malaysia, 112 seats are enough for a simple majority in the 222-seat Parliament.

“However, Muhyiddin could not convince the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah.

“Anwar, on the other hand, claimed he had a two-thirds majority when announcing his ‘unity government’ – although the right term should be ‘grand coalition’ since there is a sizeable opposition in PN (74 seats).”

Azeem said that to stop the speculation, winning the vote of confidence in Parliament would be crucial, and give Anwar an edge.

Azeem, however, warned that Anwar’s close relationship with his deputy, Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, is worrying.

Ahmad Zahid is still facing 47 criminal charges, including for criminal breach of trust amounting to RM31 million belonging to charitable foundation Yayasan Akalbudi, which the Umno president and Barisan Nasional (BN) chairman heads.

“Anwar may need Zahid now for political stability, but why does he (Ahmad Zahid) have to be at every press conference the prime minister gives?

“Anwar should start distancing himself from Ahmad Zahid, who returns to court next month,” said Azeem, director of Universiti Sains Malaysia’s Centre for Policy Research and International Studies.

Azeem said if the court finds Ahmad Zahid innocent, Anwar’s political enemies may insinuate that Anwar had interfered with the judiciary.

“What happens if Ahmad Zahid is guilty? Would he then see it as Anwar not ‘helping’ him? The consequence of that could be that Umno and BN may withdraw their support (30 seats) of the government.”

Azeem said if that were to happen, Gabungan Parti Sarawak (23 seats), could also pull out of the unity government, as GPS had worked closely with BN in the past.

That could lead to PN making another bid for control of the country.

Azeem said not all BN MPs wanted to work with Anwar and Pakatan Harapan but had to follow Ahmad Zahid’s instructions as he is BN chairman.

Several Umno MPs, including former defence minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein and those from MCA and MIC, had initially objected to working with PH.

Umno’s Johor Menteri Besar Datuk Onn Hafiz Ghazi had also openly said he was against cooperating with PH.

Azeem added there was a possibility that Umno could have a new president as the party’s election is less than six months away.

“If Ahmad Zahid loses, there is no guarantee that the new Umno president will continue supporting PH.

“As such, it would be wiser for Anwar to build stronger relationships with the other coalitions in the government instead of looking at Zahid, Umno, and Barisan Nasional,” he added.

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