Malaysia’s Anwar Ibrahim says he has support to form new government

Should Anwar Ibrahim succeed in securing the post, it would be the culmination of a 22-year long quest, which included nearly 10 years in jail on charges he denied. (AP)
Short Url
Updated 13 October 2020

Malaysia’s Anwar Ibrahim says he has support to form new government

  • Malaysia’s government has 222 MPs in the lower house of parliament

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia’s opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim has called for Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin’s resignation, saying he had submitted evidence of support for his new government to the king on Tuesday.

Anwar met Yang di-Pertuan Agong Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah after saying last month that he had the support of more than 120 lawmakers in the 222-member parliament.

“I have today presented the Agong (king) with documents regarding my strong and firm majority from members of parliament, and I hope everyone will give the Agong space to conduct his duties with due diligence,” Anwar, president of the People’s Justice Party, told a press conference.

The palace confirmed Anwar’s audience with the Agong, but denied he had submitted any documents.

“In the 25-minute session, Anwar has presented his claim of support from members of parliament, but he did not disclose the name list of the parliamentarians to strengthen his claim,” Ahmad Fadil Shamsuddin, comptroller of the royal household, said.

The Agong advised Anwar to adhere to and respect the legal processes, as stated in the constitution.

Malaysia’s government has 222 MPs in the lower house of parliament and, at the last count, Muhyiddin’s National Alliance (NA) government commanded the support of 114 of them. A minimum of 112 MPs is needed to form a government.

Anwar said that several questions had been raised following his statements in September, when he claimed to have the backing of a majority of parliamentarians while championing racial rights in favor of the Bumiputera and Malay communities.

He reassured the public that everyone’s rights would be respected and that, in due time, the Agong would call for meetings with party leaders to confirm and acquire their input. He also warned that Muhyiddin’s government had collapsed.

But experts disagreed, saying that Muhyiddin’s government was safe for the time being unless some parties from his NA coalition withdrew. 

“Many MPs want to stay in government, regardless of who the PM is and joining an abortive coup will land themselves in opposition, losing perks and possibly facing selective prosecution,” Prof. Wong Chin Huat, a political scientist at Sunway University in Kuala Lumpur, told Arab News.

Wong said that such a move could lead some - not all - who wanted to switch sides to do it only when they were sure they were the majority.

“In other words, the threshold is hard to cross by Anwar or other plotters, but once that threshold is crossed, many in the government would just pledge loyalty to the new boss in the name of stability, fighting COVID-19, national interests,” Wong added.

Muhyiddin hit back at his rival’s claims, telling the media: “I don’t want to comment on what Anwar did in the palace. I leave it to the best judgement of the king, who is the most qualified person.”

Anwar’s move to claim a majority is another blow to Malaysia’s constitution after a coup in February, when former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohammad resigned abruptly following secret meetings with his party and opposition members.

The Alliance of Hope government came into power in 2018 after 60 years of rule by the National Front, led by the disgraced and convicted former prime minister, Najib Razak.

Najib was embroiled in scandals involving state funds which many believe led to the National Front government’s downfall.

Malaysia’s constitution says that the appointment of the prime minister is the king’s discretionary function.

While the discretion is broad, it is not absolute. It also says that within democratic rule, and based on constitutional elections, the monarch’s power to choose the prime minister must be exercised within the parameters of the constitution and conventions.

UK cuts overseas aid after worst recession in over 300 years

Updated 35 min 41 sec ago

UK cuts overseas aid after worst recession in over 300 years

  • Decision goes against the government’s promise last year to maintain the aid target and drew sharp criticism
  • A minister has quit, arguing that the decision “will diminish our power to influence other nations to do what is right”

LONDON: The British government faced fury Wednesday over its decision to ditch its long-standing target for overseas aid in the wake of what it described as the deepest recession in over three centuries.
In a statement to lawmakers, Treasury chief Rishi Sunak said the target to allocate 0.7% of national income to overseas aid will be cut to 0.5%. The move is expected to free up 4 billion pounds ($5.3 billion) for the Conservative government to use elsewhere, money that critics say could be used to save tens of thousands of lives in the poorest parts of the world.
While expressing “great respect to those who have argued passionately to retain this target,” Sunak said “sticking rigidly” to it “is difficult to justify” to people at a time when the economy has been so battered by the coronavirus pandemic.
“At a time of unprecedented crisis, government must make tough choices,” he said.
Without giving a timetable, he said that the government aims to return to the target first laid out by the Labour government of Tony Blair in 2004. And he said that even with the new target, the UK will still be the second biggest aid spender among the Group of Seven leading industrial nations.
The decision goes against the government’s promise last year to maintain the aid target and drew sharp criticism from across the political spectrum, including within Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s own Conservative Party.
Liz Sugg, a junior minister at the Foreign Office, has quit, arguing that the decision “will diminish our power to influence other nations to do what is right.”
The UK has for years been considered one of the world’s leaders in development and aid so the government’s decision to lower the target was met with anger and dismay from poverty campaigners.
“Cutting the UK’s lifeline to the world’s poorest communities in the midst of a global pandemic will lead to tens of thousands of otherwise preventable deaths,” said Oxfam Chief Executive Danny Sriskandarajah.
Save the Children Chief Executive Kevin Watkins also said the decision had “broken Britain’s reputation for leadership on the world stage” ahead of its hosting of the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference next year.
The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby joined the chorus of disapproval, describing the cut as “shameful and wrong” and urging lawmakers “to reject it for the good of the poorest, and the UK’s own reputation and interest.”
In a sobering assessment that provided the backdrop to the cut, Sunak sought to balance ongoing support for the economy with a longer-term commitment to heal public finances after a stark deterioration.
“Our health emergency is not yet over and our economic emergency has only just begun,” he said.
Sunak said the government’s independent economic forecasters are predicting that the British economy will shrink 11.3% this year, the “largest fall in output for more than 300 years.”
The Office for Budget Responsibility expects the economy to grow again next year as coronavirus restrictions are eased and hoped-for vaccines come on stream. The agency is predicting growth of 5.5% in 2021 and 6.6% the following year. As a result the output lost during the pandemic won’t have been recouped until the final quarter of 2022.
Sunak warned that the pandemic’s cost will create long-term “scarring,” with the economy 3% smaller in 2025 than predicted in March, before the spring lockdown.
The massive fall in output this year has led to a huge increase in public borrowing as the government sought to cushion the blow and tax revenues fell. Sunak said the government has pumped 280 billion pounds into the economy to get through the pandemic. Public borrowing this fiscal year is set to hit 394 billion pounds, or 19% of national income, “the highest recorded level of borrowing in our peacetime history.”
He warned that underlying public debt is rising toward 100% of annual GDP.
“High as these costs are, the costs of inaction would have been far higher,” he said. “But this situation is clearly unsustainable over the medium term.”
Sunak said the 1 million doctors and nurses in the National Health Service will get a pay rise next year, as will 2.1 million of the lowest paid workers in the public sector. However, he said pay rises in the rest of the public sector will be “paused” next year.
Sunak also announced extra money to support Johnson’s program of investments in infrastructure across the UK, particularly in the north of England, where the Conservatives won seats during the last general election. A new infrastructure bank will also be headquartered in the north of England.