Malaysian political heavyweights Mahathir Mohamad and Anwar Ibrahim put aside long-running animosity and joined an opposition protest on Monday (Aug 2) against the shutdown of Parliament and demand the country’s embattled premier resign.
The final day of a Parliament session, due to take place on Monday, has been cancelled after the discovery of several coronavirus cases in the legislature.
But rivals accused Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin of using Covid-19 as an excuse to dodge a no-confidence vote that could cause the collapse of his crisis-hit government.
The Parliament sitting, which began last week, was the first this year after political activities were suspended under a state of emergency, ostensibly to fight a worsening outbreak.
On Monday, two-time former prime minister Mahathir and Mr Anwar stood side by side at the head of a group of around 100 lawmakers before they tried to march on Parliament.
The pair’s turbulent relationship has long loomed over Malaysian politics, and it has been rare to see them together since the collapse of their coalition government last year amid infighting.
“Even when people condemn (Mr Muhyiddin), he remains shameless and refuses to step down,” Mr Mahathir, 96, told reporters in a historic Kuala Lumpur square.
Mr Anwar said that Mr Muhyiddin’s government had “lost its legitimacy”, and he no longer commanded majority support in Parliament.
“We are protesting today because we want to protect the people,” he added.
The MPs, chanting “step down Muhyiddin”, were stopped by the police as they attempted to reach Parliament and peacefully dispersed.
In the late 1990s, during his first stint as premier, Mr Mahathir sacked Mr Anwar from government, and he was subsequently jailed for sodomy and abuse of power in a case criticised as politically motivated.
They buried the hatchet to lead an opposition alliance to a historic election victory in 2018, only to fall out again.
Political tensions are escalating, with Mr Muhyiddin facing fresh calls to quit after the King rebuked his administration for misleading Parliament and hundreds staged a rare anti-government protest on Saturday.
Mr Muhyiddin took power last year at the head of a scandal-hit coalition, but his government is in crisis after allies withdrew support.
The state of emergency officially ended on Sunday, although a nationwide lockdown remains in place.
Citing his sources, he said 12 Umno MPs had already given their support to Anwar.
This was despite deputy prime minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob insisting that 40 BN MPs were supporting Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin.
He added that the King could appoint almost anyone to be the next prime minister so long as he was satisfied that he had the support of the majority of the MPs.
Zaid said the new prime minister would have majority support as the current government had conducted “a serious infraction” by openly lying and misleading Parliament on the revocation of the emergency ordinances.
“He (the new PM) will be strongly supported. Even if the King appoints a particular candidate as prime minister with support of 100 MPs at noon, the new prime minister will get 120 by 5pm on the same day.
“That’s how things are in our country.”
He said Muhyiddin’s office had suggested that the Malay Rulers were “puppets” who had to follow every Cabinet decision when he defied the King’s statement on Thursday.
“Even (former prime minister) Dr Mahathir Mohamad, when confronting the Rulers on the issue of immunity in 1993, did not humiliate them when presenting the government’s views.
“Dr Mahathir, who at the time helmed a strong BN government with a two-thirds majority, never made assertions to suggest that the Malay Rulers were ‘puppets’ who had to follow whatever the Cabinet had decided without question.”
Zaid said the King had no option but to appoint a new prime minister now that Muhyiddin was unlikely to enjoy the confidence of the monarch and the rakyat.
The King said on Thursday he had not consented to the revocation of the emergency ordinances, announced by de facto law minister Takiyuddin Hassan in Parliament on July 26.
In his rebuttal, the Prime Minister’s Office said the decision was made in accordance with the law, adding that the government had held a virtual audience with the King on July 24, attended by Takiyuddin and Attorney-General Idrus Harun, during which they informed him of their decision.