KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) – Malaysian Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin may face another challenge to his leadership on Tuesday, if the opposition in parliament seeks to block a third and final vote to pass the government’s 2021 budget.
Muhyiddin’s government plans to spend a record 322.5 billion ringgit ($79.61 billion) next year, up 2.5% from this year as it seeks to spur activity in an economy badly hit by the coronavirus pandemic.
Opposition lawmakers led by veteran leader Anwar Ibrahim backed down from a plan to vote down the budget at the end of the policy stage debate last month, avoiding a potential political crisis as Muhyiddin faced the first real test of his wafer-thin majority in the 222-seat parliament.
A budget defeat would have been seen as a loss of confidence in Muhyiddin’s leadership and could have triggered snap polls.
Two opposition sources said Anwar, who in September declared he had majority support from lawmakers to form a government, is expected to try to block the budget this time.
“He’s got 113, so we expect something to happen,” said a senior opposition lawmaker, who asked not to be named as they were not authorised to speak to media.
The opposition bloc include up to 10 lawmakers from the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), the former ruling party, led by its president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi and former premier Najib Razak, according to the sources.
Anwar and Najib’s offices declined to comment, while Ahmad Zahid’s representative did not have any immediate comment.There was also no immediate comment from the prime minister’s office.
Muhyiddin also faces pressure from his predecessor, Mahathir Mohamad, who on Monday called on lawmakers to consider replacing a “weak” government with one that is stable and focused on reviving Malaysia’s economic fortunes.
“If the 222 members of parliament love this country, they will not choose the party or themselves… they are elected in order to govern this country,” Mahathir told a news conference.
($1 = 4.0510 ringgit)
(Reporting by Joseph Sipalan; Editing by Ed Davies)