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KUALA LUMPUR, July 30 — Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin’s hold on power appears to be growing ever more tenuous after Umno declared its exit from Perikatan Nasional (PN) today in a shock move that effectively shifts control of Parliament back into Barisan Nasional’s (BN) hands, legal experts said.
Lim Wei Jiet, a constitutional lawyer, said the Pagoh MP now leads a shaky minority government beholden to BN and PAS, who provide over two-thirds of the seats in the loose coalition Muhyiddin scrambled to form in March.
“The scenario we have today is what we call a ‘minority government’ — which means no single party or coalition has a majority to form the government, but there are enough MPs to support the formation of one,” he said.
“It does not change anything in Parliament in the sense that the government would not fall because there is technically still support from Umno MPs towards Muhyiddin as prime minister,” the lawyer added.
“But it puts Muhyiddin's PN government in an even shakier position.”
Umno president Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said today that his party will no longer be a PN component member although its MPs will continue to back Muhyiddin in Parliament.
The Umno president announced the decision just two days after the High Court convicted Datuk Seri Najib Razak on money laundering, criminal breach of trust and power abuse charges in relation to money misappropriated from 1MDB.
Najib was Zahid’s immediate predecessor.
Zahid when explaining the decision said Umno and BN will now focus on strengthening their relations with PAS in Muafakat Nasional (MN), prompting questions about PN’s status as a coalition and Parti Bersatu Pribumi Bersatu’s position.
Muhyddin’s Bersatu, together with defectors from PKR, control just over 30 federal seats.
But even as his fledgling coalition crumbles, the Bersatu president can remain as prime minister so long as he commands majority support in Parliament.
“The Constitution merely requires that the prime minister enjoys the support of the majority of MPs,” said constitutional lawyer Surendra Ananth.
“So regardless of coalition politics, as long as the BN and PAS MPs still support Muhyiddin, my view is that his government can remain. This is of course assuming he has majority support.”
Neither Muhyiddin nor his party has not publicly responded to Zahid’s announcement.
But Zahid claimed the Bersatu president met with several BN lawmakers in Parliament yesterday, seemingly hinting at the party’s interest to align with MN.
However, Zahid said the matter will be reviewed first.