Mahathir Mohamad, who resigned as Malaysia’s prime minister after a power grab triggered the collapse of his ruling coalition, says he no longer believes he has enough support to win a confidence vote in Parliament against his former ally-turned-rival Muhyiddin Yassin.
Mahathir said in an interview published on Wednesday that Muhyiddin, who was named prime minister by the king on February 29, would survive a parliamentary vote.
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“We had more than 114 seats but now that has become less,” Mahathir told the Malay-language Sinar Harian newspaper.
“It will not succeed,” he said of the vote of no-confidence. “This is because he has taken my people to his side.”
Mahathir, 94, was prime minister from 1981 to 2003, and returned to power in elections in May 2018, removing the alliance that had governed Malaysia for more than 60 years and he himself had once led.
But the veteran politician’s latest stint as prime minister came to an end with his sudden resignation on February 24, after some of his coalition partners attempted to manoeuvre their way into power by working with the opposition parties.
After a period of uncertainty, during which the king met all members of parliament individually and political leaders sought to build support, Muhyiddin, who was in Mahathir’s party, emerged as prime minister.
At the same time, Mahathir and his Pakatan Harapan coalition, which includes his old rival Anwar Ibrahim, claimed they had the numbers to rule, promising to bring the issue to a vote when the lower house of Parliament reconvened on March 9.
But Muhyiddin has since delayed the opening of Parliament by two months.
Malaysia’s establishment has reasserted itself with the political turmoil.
Muhyiddin, a former home affairs minister in Mahathir’s cabinet, is now working with the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), which lost power in 2018, as well as the Islamist party PAS.
Muhyiddin, who was also once in UMNO and a former Education Minister, announced his cabinet on Monday. While UMNO politicians filled a large number of positions, those facing corruption charges, including party president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, were left out.
PAS leader Hadi Abdul Awang was also absent from the list.