Malaysia Analytical Update: The Collapse of the Pakatan Harapan Government


The Collapse of the Pakatan Harapan Government

Emma Tabatabai, Tina Jamaluddin and Kim Yaeger | February 24, 2020

The Pakatan Harapan (PH) ruling coalition government collapsed yesterday with the announcements that Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu), the former PH component member with 26 federal lawmakers, pulled out of the coalition and the resignation of 11 People’s Justice Party (PKR) members of Parliament, including former PKR deputy president Datuk Seri Mohamed Azmin Ali. This led to the resignation of Prime Minister Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad earlier today. Mahathir also resigned as Chairman of Bersatu.

With the loss of the 26 Bersatu MPs, along with 11 more from PKR, the ruling PH government, which came into power just shy of two years ago, no longer has a majority in the 222-seat Parliament.

These developments occurred on the heels of a gathering on February 23 of several opposition MPs from United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), Islamist Parti Islam se-Malaysia (PAS), Sarawak party GPS and certain government MPs from PKR, Bersatu and Sabah party Warisan to discuss the potential formation of a new coalition of parties to form a new government.

Speculation has been building for weeks that the opposition UMNO and PAS have been preparing to join forces with Mahathir’s Bersatu and a faction from Anwar’s PKR to form a new coalition.

Politicians involved in the purported new coalition want Mahathir to serve out the full five-year term as prime minister rather than step down as Prime Minister in a hand over to Anwar later this year. Pro-Anwar supporters have also been pressing Mahathir to set a fixed date for the handover and it was widely agreed that this would happen after the APEC Summit in November. Mahathir has said in recent months that he needs more time for a planned transition for which he has never set a date.

This evening, the King had officially accepted Mahathir’s resignation but has decided to appoint him as the interim Prime Minister as he appears to command the majority. The appointments of the deputy prime minister, ministers, deputy ministers and political secretaries have all been revoked based on Mahathir’s advice to the King, according to Chief Secretary Mohd Zuki Ali. The interim Prime Minister, with the support of the government’s Chief Secretary and the civil service, will govern the country until a prime minister can be appointed.

Appointment of a new prime minister will largely depend on events over the next few days based on which parties decide to come together in a coalition and if such a coalition would have a majority of seats in Parliament. As this has never happened before in Malaysia’s history, the situation remains very fluid as there is no precedent. The King has up to 10 days to determine which coalition has the majority support to form the new government or call for snap elections. The next Parliamentary session is on March 9.

A group of prominent members of civil society calling themselves Concerned Malaysians rejected any “back door government” that does not have the mandate of the people. Calls are growing for Pakatan Harapan to go back to the ballot box. Some said that the only legitimate government is the government from the people, by the people and for the people.

The Council will continue to send out updates as events unfold.