With Anwar circling, analysts see Perikatan winning Sabah CM’s post as vital boost for Muhyiddin

Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin attends the opening ceremony of the Malaysia Urban Forum 2020 in Kuala Lumpur September 28, 2020. — Picture by Ahmad Zamzahuri
Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin attends the opening ceremony of the Malaysia Urban Forum 2020 in Kuala Lumpur September 28, 2020. — Picture by Ahmad Zamzahuri

KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 29 — Perikatan Nasional’s success in securing the Sabah chief minister’s post over Barisan Nasional indicated that Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin’s political influence could be strong enough to withstand an immediate challenge, analysts said

Allies PN and BN had been deadlocked over the matter until yesterday, when the latter coalition conceded the position to Sabah Bersatu chief Datuk Seri Mohd Hajiji Mohd Noor.

Muhyiddin is the president of Bersatu and chairman of PN.

The South China Morning Post cited political risk consultancy Control Risks’ Asia-Pacific associate director Harrison Cheng as saying Hajiji’s nomination was significant for Muhyiddin.

“That Muhyiddin has been able to secure the chief minister position in Sabah for Bersatu strengthens his clout, both within the federal coalition and against Anwar’s plot,” he said.

Cheng was referring to PKR president Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s claim last Thursday of having secured a “formidable” majority in Parliament to form a new federal government.

Although declining to reveal the full details, the Port Dickson MP claimed he has “close to” a two-thirds majority.

Analyst James Chin was quoted as saying Muhyiddin has clearly benefited from the results of the Sabah state election.

“Muhyiddin will benefit politically from GRS’ victory. He can take credit for GRS’ win since it was PN which funded the bulk of GRS’ campaign and operations in the Kadazandusun and Murut heartlands,” he wrote in a commentary for Channel News Asia yesterday.

The victory in Sabah has also made analysts review the likelihood of a snap election soon, as Muhyiddin appears to have a stronger edge this time. A snap election is also seen as inevitable since the prime minister has a very slim majority of two seats in the Dewan Rakyat.

Amid Anwar’s claim of having support from several MPs in Bersatu’s ally Umno, political scientist Azmil Tayeb said the vote for Budget 2021 in November will be the next key test for Muhyiddin.

“A win in the budget vote will give him and PN a shot of confidence ahead of the upcoming election,” he said.
It is even possible that an election will take place as early as next month, as political observer Oh Ei Sun said this could happen if the Budget vote is pushed to December and the month-long parliamentary debate that precedes it is compressed into a shorter time period.

“Otherwise it could be early next year, for example after the Chinese New Year when budget handouts begin to take effect.

“In any case it has to be sooner than later, not only due to pressure from Umno but an ailing economy that would make voters disgruntled,” he said.

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