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

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)
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Updated 13 October 2020

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

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.

Kabul hails Biden plan to review Taliban deal

Kabul hails Biden plan to review Taliban deal
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani (C) arrives with the government delegation during a visit in Herat province on January 21, 2021. (AFP)
Updated 23 January 2021

Kabul hails Biden plan to review Taliban deal

Kabul hails Biden plan to review Taliban deal
  • Violence has worsened since signing of peace accord, critics claim

KABUL: Officials in Kabul have welcomed the new US administration’s plan to review a peace deal between Washington and the Taliban that paved the way for a complete withdrawal of US-led troops from Afghanistan by May.

President Joe Biden’s National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan on Saturday told his Afghan counterpart, Hamdullah Mohib, that Washington will review last year’s agreement — an issue long demanded by Kabul — in a sign of a possible policy shift in the White House under its new leadership.

The accord, signed in Doha in February 2020, followed secret talks between the previous US government of Donald Trump and Taliban leaders. It committed the militants to reducing conflict in Afghanistan and engaging in negotiations with the Afghan government.

However, violence has intensified since the signing of the deal that also forced Kabul to release thousands of Taliban prisoners, souring President Ashraf Ghani’s ties with Washington. 
“We welcome the US intention to review the February 2020 US-Taliban agreement,” Sediq Sediqqi, Afghan deputy interior minister, said in a tweet following Sullivan’s conversation with Mohib.

“The agreement has not delivered the desired goal of ending the Taliban’s violence and bringing a cease-fire desired by Afghans. The Taliban did not live up to its commitments.”

Mohib’s spokesman, Rahmatullah Andar, told Arab News that Afghan security leaders had emphasized “a cease-fire, just peace, democratic Afghanistan and protecting the past 20 years of gain.”

The Taliban ruled Afghanistan from 1996 until the arrival of US-led forces in 2001. 
Andar said that Afghanistan remained committed to its “foundational partnership with the US,” and will work closely with Washington on security, peace, counterterrorism and regional engagement.

Meanwhile, the Taliban say that they expect the new US administration to stick to the February deal.

“The demand of the Islamic Emirate from the new administration in America is full implementation of the Doha accord,” Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told Arab News. 
“The Doha agreement is the best prescription and only roadmap for ending the war in Afghanistan and for the withdrawal of US forces. The Islamic Emirate is committed to the agreement,” he said.

Under the deal, the Taliban agreed to cut ties with “terrorist groups” and halt attacks on US-led troops.

Trump administration officials claimed that there have been no strikes by the Taliban against US troops since the signing of the deal. 
Thousands of US soldiers have left since February, and only 2,500 remain in the country along with 30,000 foreign contractors. 
Afghan analysts are divided on the implications of the US administration’s announcement.

Tamim Asey, a former deputy defense minister, said the reassessment of the deal may lead to a slowing of the US withdrawal.

“I am now confident that the US will slow its troop drawdown until a policy review is complete,” he said.

Toreq Farhadi, a former government adviser, told Arab News there are likely to be only “minor changes in the reassessment” since the US wants to end the war.

However, Taj Mohammad, said that a review of the deal may lead to a “new wave of fighting.”

“The Taliban and some in the region oppose this because it could be seen as furthering the presence of US forces,” he said.