A Bersatu leader has asked if Anwar Ibrahim is a "lame duck PM" after newly appointed communications minister Fahmi Fadzil claimed the prime minister does not have the final say on who makes up his Cabinet, following public outrage over the inclusion of Umno president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi as well as another defeated candidate from the party.
"For the first time in our history, the prime minister is not taking responsibility for the composition of his Cabinet. Do we then have a head of government or is this a government without an effective premier?" asked Shah Alam Bersatu's deputy chief Dr Afif Bahardin.
Fahmi had earlier responded to Perikatan Nasional (PN) chairman Muhyiddin Yassin, who said the Cabinet composition showed Anwar had sold the country’s honour in exchange for the position of prime minister.
Muhyiddin said the inclusion of Zahid, who is facing scores of corruption charges involving millions of ringgit in bribes, made Anwar's ministerial line-up a "Cabinet of kleptocrats", adding that it had "no legitimacy to function as the highest executive body of the country".
This came in the wake of outrage on social media over Zahid's appointment as well as moves contradicting earlier promises by Pakatan Harapan (PH) and Anwar, including not to have the prime minister controlling the finance portfolio, and a pledge by the coalition's chairman not to appoint Tengku Zafrul Aziz to the Cabinet.
In an attempt to douse criticism, Fahmi said the ministers named by Anwar on Friday were not his choice as the current administration is not a PH government, adding that the Cabinet line-up was decided by the various coalitions.
Afif said Fahmi's statement was a "stunning admission of the weakness of Anwar Ibrahim’s new government".
"If Anwar is too weak and helpless to even keep kleptocrats out of his Cabinet, how can his government bring meaningful change or reform for the people?
"More importantly, whose government is it? Who calls the shots or makes the decisions in this government? Is it Anwar or Zahid who faces 47 corruption charges?" he asked.
Afif said Fahmi not only failed to justify the appointment of Zahid, but also "pushed the blame to Umno".
"This is nothing short of an open admission by Fahmi and the new government that Zahid’s appointment was wrong, immoral and indefensible," he added.
Afif also slammed what he called a "desperate" attempt by Fahmi to invoke a "unity government" in justifying the composition of the Cabinet.
"Fahmi and other BN-PH government members must stop repeating the lie that we have a unity government in Malaysia. This new government is not a unity government.
"In a 'unity government' all the political parties must be represented. Here, PN with 73 MPs is not represented in the Cabinet or government.
"Hence, the Anwar administration is a coalition government, and not a unity government."
Anwar has insisted that his administration is a "unity government", although the phrase was not included in the official statement by Istana Negara on Nov 24 naming him as the 10th prime minister.
PN, made up chiefly of Bersatu and PAS, had declined an offer by Anwar to join his government, with the coalition saying it would not work with scandal-tainted Umno leaders or DAP.