Malaysia’s king called on all lawmakers to support the government’s 2021 budget, in a move that could lend some stability to embattled PM Muhyiddin Yassin’s leadership ahead of a key parliament vote.
The monarch expressed “full confidence” in the prime minister’s ability to lead the country through the crisis, and urged all politicians to cease their bickering, Indera Ahmad Fadil Shamsuddin, Comptroller of the Royal Household, said in a statement on Wednesday.
The prime minister controls a razor-thin majority in parliament that hangs in the balance amid discontent from his biggest ally, the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO). His majority will be put to the test after the government presents its 2021 budget in parliament on November 6 — failing to pass that would count as losing a no-confidence vote.
The first national budget since the pandemic hit will focus on the people’s well-being, business continuity and economic resilience, Finance Minister Tengku Zafrul Abdul Aziz said. The opposition Democratic Action Party has offered to back the budget, on the condition that the government provide them equal treatment.
Sealing a supply and confidence agreement with the
opposition would temper risks to Muhyiddin’s government should UMNO pull out.
The party reaffirmed its support for the ruling coalition. It had earlier threatened to withdraw its backing amid rumblings of discontent over the apparent power imbalance in the government.
Still, there are lingering concerns within UMNO. Former prime minister Najib Razak said their alliance with the government may cost them a bigger defeat in the coming election, which must be held by 2023. The party would be blamed for the government’s missteps, despite its leaders not holding the most senior cabinet positions, he said. “UMNO needs to be aware this risk exists,” he wrote on Facebook.
The statement from Malaysia’s king signals the rulers’ increasing role in the country’s volatile political scene. The monarch rejected Muhyiddin’s bid to declare a state of emergency, which would have allowed the prime minister to suspend parliament. Malaysia’s monarchs usually stay on the sidelines, stepping in only to perform ceremonial functions like swearing in
ministers or pardoning criminal convicts.