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Malaysian PM says he will abide by UMNO’s decision on Pakatan Harapan

PUTRAJAYA (CNA) – Malaysian Prime Minister Dato’ Sri Ismail Sabri bin Yaakob said he would abide by the United Malays National Organisation’s (UMNO) decision that the government’s memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Pakatan Harapan (PH) on bilateral cooperation should not be extended beyond July 31.

“The decision has been made yesterday. We will wait until July 31 and as of yesterday, the supreme council (of UMNO) said there is no need to extend the MoU.

“That is the decision for now,” he told reporters on Friday during an event in the administrative capital.

While saying that the supreme council’s decision should be followed, the prime minister stressed that if there were any developments that required changes to the decision, he would bring the matter to the supreme council.

“This is a decision of the supreme council. As the vice-president of UMNO, I am also subject to decisions made by the supreme council,” he said, adding that the deadline is still months away.

When asked if UMNO’s decision meant that the polls would take place soon, Dato’ Sri Ismail Sabri said, “Not sure yet.”

Malaysian Prime Minister Ismail Sabri bin Yaakob. PHOTO: CNA

The historic MoU between the federal government and opposition coalition PH was inked in September last year to strengthen political stability amid the COVID-19 pandemic, following turmoil which saw the third prime minister being installed since the 14th general election. The deal is in effect from the date of signing until parliament is dissolved. The government also promised not to dissolve parliament before July 31, according to the MoU.

In a statement on Thursday, UMNO secretary-general Ahmad Maslan said the party’s supreme council decided in a meeting that the MoU, which ends on July 31, should not be extended.

UMNO president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi told Malaysian media on Friday that there was no need to extend the MoU, after considering the current political landscape.

“What was signed between the government and the parties was an agreement in the form of a confidence and supply agreement and that was suitable then,” he said, according to The Star.

Dato’ Sri Ismail Sabri is the first prime minister from UMNO who is not the party president.

Backed by 114 MPs, he was sworn in as Malaysia’s ninth prime minister on August 21 last year. With Dato’ Sri Ismail Sabri’s ascent to the prime minister’s post, UMNO, which had lost its grip on federal power after suffering major defeat in the last general election, is back in the driver’s seat.

The current federal government is made up of several coalitions, including Barisan Nasional (BN), Perikatan Nasional (PN) and Gabungan Parti Sarawak.

UMNO, a main pillar of BN, has signalled its intention to push for the 15th general election to happen soon – last Thursday, it named Dato’ Sri Ismail Sabri as the prime ministerial candidate.

Thanking UMNO’s supreme council for unanimously nominating him to be BN prime ministerial candidate, Dato’ Sri Ismail Sabri said it showed that the party is united.

“There are no camps in UMNO,” he said at the Friday event.