07/10/2021, 14.57
MALAYSIA
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Government on the brink at the height of the pandemic

by Steve Suwannarat

UMNO has announced its decision to withdraw from the coalition government led by Muhyiddin Yassin. The party, which lost popular support in recent years, dominated Malaysian politics since 1957. Parliament will meet on 26 July to discuss the COVID-19 emergency but also to find a way out of the political impasse.

Kuala Lumpur (AsiaNews) – Sixteen months after Muhyiddin Yassin took office, his government is facing a crisis.

King Abdullah summoned parliament for a special session on 26 July. This will allow lawmakers to adopt urgent measures to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic, but might provide a way out of the crisis caused by the decision of the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) to withdraw its support from the government.

UMNO has dominated Malaysian politics since the country gained its independence in 1957, but in recent years it has suffered a sharp loss in support despite repeated attempts to uphold its rule, now considered by many to be illiberal and founded only on claims that it alone can maintain stability.

The withdrawal left the National Alliance (Perikatan Nasional) coalition government without the votes needed to rule at a time when crucial decisions are needed to cope with a crisis that threatens the economy and might rekindle sectarian tensions.

UMNO President Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said that the decision to pull out stems from the government’s failure to realise the aspirations of the population, cope with the slowdown of the economy and implement a plan to contain COVID-19.

In announcing that his party’s withdrawal, Ahmad Zahid urged the prime minister to resign and called for elections to be held once herd immunity is achieved.

If, as expected, UMNO members of the cabinet resign, Malaysia’s 32 million people can expect a time of uncertainty.

Some envisage the return of Mahathir Mohamad to mediate. The 95-year-old served as prime minister for a total of 26 years between 1981 and 2020.

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