(Bloomberg) – Malaysian Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob is coming under pressure from his party to rescind a confidence-and-supply deal with the opposition, a move that could allow the government to dissolve parliament sooner than expected.
This was after opposition lawmakers rejected a bill that would have allowed the government to renew for five years its powers to detain suspects without trial for up to 28 days. The bill was rejected by a majority of two votes, with 50 MPs absent, according to the Speaker of Parliament on Wednesday.
The defeat was “humiliating” and violated the so-called memorandum of understanding on transformation and political stability signed between the government and the opposition Pakatan Harapan alliance last year, according to leaders of the ruling party, l ‘United Malay National Organization.
“The spirit and purpose of the MoU was clear, for a stable and smooth administration and to support the Prime Minister in managing the country’s turnaround,” said Multimedia and Communications Minister Annuar Musa, a leader of UMNO. “It is clear that Pakatan Harapan stabbed us in the back.”
At stake is Malaysia’s next general election, which is expected to take place this year due to pressure from UMNO. Ismail said on Saturday he would dissolve parliament – a precursor to a nationwide vote – once he was convinced his party had won. However, the pact with the opposition prevents him from taking the step before July 31 this year.
READ: Malaysian PM says he will dissolve parliament if sure of winning
“For me, Pakatan Harapan, especially DAP, must accept that the Prime Minister is no longer bound by this MoU,” Annuar wrote on Facebook.
The opposition argued that its rejection of the bill did not breach its pact with the government. The memorandum of understanding stipulates that the opposition would support or abstain on bills that served as de facto votes of confidence, and Wednesday’s bill did not fall into that category.
“UMNO-BN must immediately get out of the shackles of this weak cooperation,” UMNO President Ahmad Zahid Hamidi wrote on Facebook on Thursday. “All of this only reinforces my belief that UMNO must rise up and return as a strong, great and respected political power.”
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