PETALING JAYA,Mar 1: Muhyiddin Yassin has survived a year in power. Whether his Perikatan Nasional government will last another year will depend on its cooperation with Umno, according to political analysts.

Bridget Welsh of the University of Nottingham Malaysia said Muhyiddin’s government had started off strongly. It received praise for its handling of the Covid-19 pandemic and the economy.

However, all that changed after the Sabah elections in September 2020, which led to a third wave of Covid-19 infections, with the number of daily new infections running into four digits, accompanied with higher death rates.

“We saw a lot of political tension from within his own coalition, as well as a kind of failure to use his ‘honeymoon period’ to effectively address healthcare and economic issues,” Welsh told FMT.

While anything could happen given the current political instability in the country, Welsh said it was likely the prime minister would attempt to form alliances to continue staying in power.

“The fact that he’s had to declare an emergency is a liability for him politically, but Muhyiddin’s biggest challenge is not from Pakatan Harapan. It comes from Umno,” she said.

Oh Ei Sun, senior fellow at the Singapore Institute of International Affairs, also said the viability of the current ruling coalition “depends to a large extent on Umno’s intentions”.

The PN government has suffered waves of criticisms in the past few months, primarily on its “haphazard and knee-jerk responses” in governance.

Oh said if Umno decides to break with PPBM, then the country might see a new ruling coalition which “could include Umno as its backbone, perhaps even in the driver’s seat as Umno has desired over the past year”.

He said Umno and PAS had between them garnered more than 75% of Malay votes, so they have a huge support base.

A decision on Umno’s ties with PPBM is expected to be made at the party’s annual meeting, scheduled for March 27-28.

Although there was a general expectation of a snap general election this year, Oh predicted it would unlikely take place, as PPBM needed more time to “drum up its support”.

Former academic Azmi Hassan added that another big factor for the continued existence of PN was its approach in “subduing” Umno.

He said PPBM had to rethink its political strategies, after it had upset Umno by possibly aiming for the latter’s seats in the next general election (GE15).

“PPBM needs Umno more than Umno needs them. I see Umno would have no qualms of going solo, so PPBM would have to sacrifice more to secure its future after GE15,” said Azmi.

He added that Muhyiddin and PPBM would have to make more difficult decisions in the coming year, especially since they would once again be under scrutiny in Parliament.


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