Anwar set to stay put after missing own deadline for ousting PM

He is reportedly being given more time by his coalition partners to topple Muhyiddin govt

Malaysia’s opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim is unlikely to lose his position because of his failure yesterday to meet a self-imposed seven-day deadline to topple Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin.

Not only is there a lack of an alternative within Datuk Seri Anwar’s Pakatan Harapan (PH) coalition, but former Sabah chief minister Shafie Apdal – the top contender to replace him as opposition leader and de facto prime minister candidate – hurt his prospects by ordering his Parti Warisan Sabah to abstain from voting in the ongoing Budget 2021 debate.

Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim with other MPs during a split vote for the committee-level Supply Bill in Malaysia's Parliament yesterday. The Perikatan Nasional government has been able to secure approval for every individual ministry's allocation s
Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim with other MPs during a split vote for the committee-level Supply Bill in Malaysia’s Parliament on Dec 3, 2020. PHOTO: BERNAMA

Official sources told The Straits Times that Datuk Seri Shafie’s re-nomination for the role rests on whether his backers in PH – which has 91 MPs, while Warisan, one of several independent opposition parties, has only eight – can convince their colleagues that the former Umno vice-president is worthy.

Earlier this year, he was mooted as a compromise candidate when the opposition was at loggerheads over whether to pick Mr Anwar or former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad to lead them. The effort, however, ultimately failed.

“The (Warisan) boycott will cause trouble for those who want to put forward Shafie’s name,” a PH lawmaker told The Straits Times. “This gives Anwar an excuse as he can say Warisan sabotaged him.”

In a surprise move, Mr Anwar told opposition MPs not to call for a division in Parliament last week, allowing the Perikatan Nasional (PN) government to pass the budget on its second reading by a simple voice vote.

There is widespread speculation that Mr Anwar, who is Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) president, backed away from a show of hands so that Tan Sri Muhyiddin could not prove his majority in a crucial Supply Bill after potential defections from Umno – a key component in PN – failed to materialise.

Confronted by the 90 other PH legislators over the budget debacle, Mr Anwar, who is Port Dickson MP, asked for seven days to prove he could muster a parliamentary majority, failing which he said he would resign from the leadership of the coalition and the opposition bloc in Parliament, PH lawmakers told The Straits Times.

But at the end of yesterday’s debate for the ongoing committee stage of Budget 2021, PN – which controls only 112 seats in the 220-strong Parliament – has been able to secure approval for every individual ministry’s allocation so far, even though Mr Anwar has since September claimed to have a “strong, formidable and convincing” majority of MPs.

Warisan has been absent from Parliament for all except one vote this week, in protest against Mr Anwar’s last-minute instruction not to call for a bloc vote at the second reading of the budget Bill on Nov 26. Grassroots members and opposition supporters lambasted the move for prioritising political machinations instead of public interest.

A top Warisan leader said seven of its MPs had to vote against the international trade and industry allocation yesterday, as fellow Sabahan Wilfred Tangau, who is United Progressive Kinabalu Organisation president, moved for RM20 million (S$6.57 million) to be transferred to the Sabah Technology Park.

The Warisan leader added: “We have to support any motion that is beneficial to Sabah, but otherwise, our stand is not to support Anwar’s strategy, which is to work with Umno only to become prime minister, rather than to ensure a better budget or government for Malaysia.”

Warisan’s party whip Rozman Isli was quoted by the Malaysiakini news portal as saying that the abstention was to “make sure everybody in the opposition starts to realise there is a need for a strong leadership in the opposition bloc”, and suggested new leadership from younger personalities without stating specific names. Mr Shafie is 10 years younger than Mr Anwar, who is 73.

But PH figures have lashed out at Warisan for refusing to back efforts to defeat the government’s budget, accusing the party of seeking revenge against Mr Anwar.

PKR Sabah information chief Simsudin Sidek said: “I call on the Warisan leadership to cease this unreasonable action and remind them to behave like true friends.”

Official sources told The Straits Times Mr Anwar is being given more time by his coalition partners, and some believe this will drag on until Budget 2021’s final vote at the third reading on Dec 15.

By : Shannon Teoh – THE STRAITS TIMES

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