World

Muhyiddin banks on strong win in Sabah to counter Anwar's challenge

KUALA LUMPUR: Locked in a power struggle with opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, Malaysian Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin needs a solid victory in Sabah tomorrow to stop support within his coalition parties melting away, analysts said.

Mr Anwar ignited political fireworks on Wednesday with the bold claim that he had the backing of nearly two-thirds of the 222 lawmakers in Malaysia's Parliament and would be asking the King, Sultan Abdullah Ri'ayatuddin, to install him as prime minister in place of Mr Muhyiddin.

The state election in Sabah, where his party is in an opposition coalition, will be Mr Muhyiddin's first test at the ballot box. While Mr Anwar's own party is a relatively minor player in the Sabah election, a regional party friendly to his Pakatan Harapan bloc will be the obstacle to Mr Muhyiddin's allies.

The Sabah contest would not directly decide the fate of the federal government, but it could give Mr Muhyiddin a foretaste of how he might fare if the King denies Mr Anwar's request to be given the premiership and instead tells the politicians to sort it out through an election.

Analysts said Mr Muhyiddin needs a sizeable victory in Sabah to consolidate support within his Perikatan Nasional coalition.

"Anything less than a proper win would lead to an even further erosion within Muhyiddin's coalition, especially among members who are on the fence," said Mr Shazwan Mustafa Kamal, senior associate at a political consultancy firm.

While Mr Muhyiddin dismissed Mr Anwar's claims of commanding a majority, he conceded that there had been defections to Mr Anwar's camp.

No major political party has come out in support of Mr Anwar yet. But if he does have the numbers he claims, Mr Muhyiddin's "only option" would be to call a snap election, a source close to the Prime Minister's Office told Reuters. - REUTERS

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