Opposition gearing up for snap polls, says Shafie

(FMT) – The opposition is preparing for early elections after a crucial vote in the lower house this week showed Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin may lack a parliamentary majority, says Shafie Apdal, a potential rival for the top post.

Muhyiddin yesterday succeeded in his bid to replace the Dewan Rakyat speaker by a margin of two votes. But he fell one vote short of a simple majority with only half of the 222 lawmakers in the house voting for his motion.

“It is not even a simple majority. It is clear that it is a hung parliament,” Shafie told a group of reporters today.

“Elections are not far away, it’s just around the corner,” he said, anticipating that a general election would be held well before it falls due in 2023.

He said the tabling and parliamentary vote on the 2021 budget in November would be another crucial test for the government.

Malaysia, Southeast Asia’s third-largest economy, has been grappling with political uncertainty since Muhyiddin was unexpectedly made prime minister in March by forging an alliance with the graft-tainted Umno party that was defeated in a 2018 election.

The opposition, which now includes his predecessor Dr Mahathir Mohamad, has accused Muhyiddin of grabbing power by shifting allegiances instead of earning it at the ballot box, and has vowed to oust him.

However, the opposition has been fighting over who should be their prime ministerial candidate. Ninety-five-year-old Mahathir and his ally-turned-foe Anwar Ibrahim have both declared their intentions to be the bloc’s candidate, although Mahathir later threw his support behind Shafie.

A long-time Umno stalwart, Shafie was suspended from the party in 2016 for questioning then-prime minister Najib Razak over his handling of the 1MDB scandal.

He later quit the party to form his own party based in his home state of Sabah, and became the state’s chief minister after the 2018 polls.

Shafie said he was still weighing whether to be a candidate, and has received messages of support from some MPs in Anwar’s party.

The opposition needs to work harder to show a united front and present clear economic policies to recover from the coronavirus pandemic to win over voters in any election, he said.