The meeting between Pakatan Harapan (PH) chief Anwar Ibrahim and his Barisan Nasional (BN) counterpart Zahid Hamidi on Monday morning has yet to produce Malaysia’s next government, with Zahid saying his alliance’s supreme council has not decided who to back.
Datuk Seri Anwar and Zahid met just hours before a 2pm deadline for Malaysia’s political leaders to cobble together a government.
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“Any decision will only be made after a negotiating committee has met with any parties that want to form government and after the BN supreme council has decided officially after feedback from the negotiations. There have been no official negotiations up to now,” said UMNO President Zahid, as stated from The Straits Times, Monday 21 November 2022.
The meeting at Seri Pacific Hotel in Kuala Lumpur comes after Saturday’s vote threw up the nation’s first-ever hung Parliament after a general election, with both Anwar and Perikatan Nasional (PN) chairman Muhyiddin Yassin staking their claim to becoming prime minister.
Although Zahid said that no official negotiations had so far taken place, caretaker Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob told reporters “since we received some guests, it’s only natural and courteous to welcome them and have a chat,” when asked why Anwar was present at a BN meeting.
The Umno vice-president Ismail added that the coalition is asking for an extension to the King’s 2pm deadline, so it can conduct negotiations.
Zahid also said BN had not made any decision to form a government with PN. “Any claims by parties or coalitions that BN has joined them to form the government are all untrue,” he said.
PH leaders have also said the two coalitions have agreed to form state governments in Perak and Pahang, where legislative assemblies were also hung after Saturday’s election.
“Perak PH will form a new state government with BN and God willing will be a stable administration,” said Parti Amanah Negara state chief Asmuni Awi.
Other party leaders who arrived at the hotel include Mr Mohamad Sabu, president of PH component Amanah, and Datuk Seri Wee Ka Siong, who leads BN party Malaysian Chinese Association.
PH’s largest component, the Democratic Action Party (DAP), agreed on Sunday night to Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) president Anwar’s move to rope in the UMNO-led BN, sources told The Straits Times.
The move is controversial as PH has long made anti-corruption a core principle of its political agenda, while UMNO members are perceived to be riddled with graft, not least of them party president Zahid, who is on trial for dozens of graft charges.
In 2018, UMNO lost power for the first time in Malaysia’s six-decade history on the back of public ire over the 1MDB scandal, in which billions of dollars in public funds were stolen.
“Zahid won’t be given government positions and there will be no interference in his court case. It is a rough, tough decision but we have to recognise the bigger enemy. PAS cannot be allowed in government,” a member of DAP’s leadership council told ST, referring to Parti Islam SeMalaysia.
PAS, a member of Tan Sri Muhyiddin’s PN, emerged as the largest party in Parliament with 44 MPs after Saturday’s election, and has long espoused Islamist views that critics say infringe on personal freedoms.
PKR Youth chief Adam Adli, well-known for his campaigning efforts against kleptocracy, said conditions should be set for BN and PH to work together. “If there’s some kind of cooperation, there must be some conditions set,” he said, in response to media queries at the hotel on Saturday.
Both Anwar and Muhyiddin, with 82 and 79 MPs respectively, need support from BN parliamentarians to achieve a simple majority in the 222-seat legislature.
But ST has learnt that as at Sunday evening, UMNO was deeply divided, with some leaders calling on Zahid, who wants to commit BN’s 30 MPs to support PH, to resign.
However, Zahid insisted that any written pledge of support for any prime ministerial candidate prior to this was invalid as it violated an oath undertaken by BN candidates to abide by the coalition’s collective decision.
In an immediate response, caretaker Senior Defence Minister Hishammuddin Hussein, said to be leading the pro-PN group, insisted he would not work with Anwar and DAP.
“No Anwar, No DAP. Those who feel they can sack me for holding to this stance, go ahead,” the former UMNO vice-president said, referring to a resolution by the party’s general assembly last year.
Gabungan Parti Sarawak, which took 22 of the state’s 31 seats, had declared on Sunday its backing for former premier Muhyiddin, putting the Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia president in pole position.
Malaysia’s King, who is tasked with determining who is likely to command the confidence of the majority in the legislature, had decreed on Sunday that in view of the hung Parliament, parties and independent MPs should present him a coalition that can form a government by 2pm on Monday.
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