KUALA LUMPUR, July 30 — Umno president Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi announced today that his party will not join the informal Perikatan Nasional (PN) coalition that controls the federal government.
He said his party will instead focus on developing the Muafakat Nasional (MN) partnership with PAS and the rest of Barisan Nasional (BN).
The announcement comes two days after former Umno president Datuk Seri Najib Razak was convicted on all counts in his SRC International corruption trial.
The ramifications of his announcement are not immediately clear as Ahmad Zahid indicated that his party’s lawmakers would continue to support the PN administration both federally and in the states it governs.
“Support for the Perikatan Nasional government is only based on the backing of Umno and BN elected representatives to form the federal government and some state administrations,” he said in a press conference.
The remarks suggest that Umno’s support for the ruling PN was now strictly in terms of confidence and supply.
However, Ahmad Zahid stressed that this decision did not mean PN no longer commanded majority support in Parliament, saying that it was purely about his party’s entry into the coalition.
He also confirmed that Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin had met with several BN lawmakers in Parliament yesterday to express Bersatu’s interest in joining MN.
Ahmad Zahid said PAS, the other major component of the informal alliance, must study this first.
The Umno president also reiterated that his party and PAS already resolved previously that their priority would be to develop MN.
“I will leave it to MN’s central committee to consider Bersatu’s intention to join, in the event that this could reinforce MN for the good of the people and country.”
When asked how long it would take to decide Bersatu’s entry, the Umno president said it would only come after Aidiladha celebrations were completed.
Ahmad Zahid had hinted at today’s announcement shortly after Najib became the first Malaysian ex-prime minister to ever be convicted of a crime on Tuesday.
When asked if there was any connection between this decision and Najib’s conviction, Zahid declined to say but he asserted earlier that the matter was decided on July 24 or four days prior to that.
“That is up to you to interpret,” he said.
Muhyiddin’s support in Parliament has already been exposed as tenuous, after his government barely managed to replace the House Speaker by just two votes.
The inability to count on Umno’s support beyond confidence and supply would make it virtually impossible for PN to legislate effectively.