KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) – Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin will face a confidence vote in parliament on May 18, having been focused on fighting an outbreak of the coronavirus in Malaysia since emerging at the head of a new coalition a little over two months ago.
The motion proposing a confidence vote was brought by Mahathir Mohamad, Malaysia’s 94-year-old veteran leader who resigned the premiership in February as the multi-ethnic coalition he had led fell apart.
Muhyiddin, who had formerly been among Mahathir’s trusted lieutenants, was sworn in on March 1, having emerged at the head of an ethnic Malay dominated coalition whose parties together hold a slender majority, controlling 116 of the 222 seats in parliament.
Muhyiddin had earlier postponed the start of parliamentary proceedings by two months in March, as the opposition pushed for a confidence vote to challenge his new government.
On Friday, Lower House Speaker Mohamad Ariff Md Yusof said he had approved Mahathir’s motion for a confidence test once parliament convenes for the first time this year on May 18.
“As Speaker of the Lower House, I must study and ensure all motions put forward fulfill and abide by the standing orders… whatever consideration and decision by the Speaker of the Lower House must be fair and upholds the integrity of the House,” Mohamad Ariff said in a statement.
The prime minister’s office referred requests for comment to the minister in charge of law and parliamentary affairs, who did not immediately respond.
Should Mahathir’s group succeed in weaning away some of Muhyiddin’s support, Malaysia could once again go to the polls.
At the last election in 2018, Mahathir’s multi-ethnic alliance ousted then prime minister Najib Razak, tapping popular anger over their leader’s alleged involvement in a multi-billion dollar graft scandal at sovereign fund 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB).
Returning for a second stint in power, having led Malaysia for 22 years until 2003, Mahathir was unable to hold his rag-tag coalition together.
To secure power, Muhyiddin broke with Mahathir and forged a new Malay nationalist coalition with Najib’s corruption-tainted party – the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), and an Islamist party, PAS.
Muhyiddin’s tenure so far has been focused on managing the public health crisis and economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic. Earlier this week the government began relaxing some of the strict curbs on movement aimed at containing the spread of the disease.
The government has said that the six-week lockdown has cost it some 63 billion ringgit ($14.57 billion) in revenue.
($1 = 4.3250 ringgit)
(Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)