The Agong’s reminder to MPs over the weekend about the importance of the budget next month does not appear to have stopped a faction in PKR from mobilising forces opposed to Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin, in a move that could trigger a pandemic-season election.
There are fears within PKR that the royal endorsement of Muhyiddin’s handling of the Covid-19 crisis, as well as Umno and PAS’ clear rejection of any cooperation with PKR president Anwar Ibrahim, could further strengthen the prime minister’s position.
Lower-ranking PKR leaders have been urged to maintain pressure against the government, amid rumblings among the party’s 39 MPs over their leader’s failure to prove that he has the majority support needed to topple Muhyiddin’s government.
Despite the Agong’s reminder, Subang MP Wong Chen, a staunch Anwar loyalist, urged the opposition not to give up ahead of the crucial budget vote next month.
“So the budget vote then becomes the one and only silver bullet the opposition has to test the legitimacy of the government. Therefore, we can’t simply surrender this silver bullet to the prime minister for free,” he said in a social media post.
“Instead, we must consider using this as an all-important bargaining chip, to obtain some much needed reforms to save democracy.”
He also listed out a series of reforms which he said the nine-month-old government – formed on the back of Pakatan Harapan’s collapse just as Covid-19 hit Malaysian shores in February – must undertake in exchange for support for the budget bill.
Lower-ranking PKR leaders have been urged to maintain pressure against the government.
The statement has raised questions as to whether the royal warning against attempts to destabilise the present government as Covid-19 cases continue to spike has fallen on deaf ears.
But it has also shown that rival politicians opposed to Muhyiddin are now more ready to bury their differences in the face of a common enemy – especially after the open call by former prime minister Najib Razak for Umno MPs to support Anwar for the top post.
A former close aide to Anwar told MalaysiaNow of fears among anti-Muhyiddin leaders in both PKR and Umno that the decision by Umno’s top body this week to revert to its original support for the Perikatan Nasional government had strengthened the prime minister’s position.
“And when a position is strengthened, it is the best time for the government to offer reconciliation in the fight against Covid-19. It’s something the anti-Muhyiddin forces are aware will split them apart,” he told MalaysiaNow.
Wong Chen is also aware of this.
“Using words such as ‘reconciliation’, ‘engagement’, ‘depoliticise’, means nothing if the government is not sincere about democratic reforms,” the PKR MP said.
On Sunday, Sultan Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah warned politicians against “politicking” as well as attempts to subvert the government’s battle against Covid-19, after declining to use his power to declare a state of emergency which could prevent pandemic-season polls.
The Agong also specifically referred to next month’s budget, which, if shot down in the Dewan Rakyat by the actions of a few Umno MPs aligned with their president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi as well as Najib, could bring down the government and trigger a snap election.