PAS non-committal on no-confidence vote

KUALA LUMPUR • The already difficult task of rallying enough lawmakers to support a no-confidence motion against embattled Prime Minister Najib Razak may have just become insurmountable after Parti Islam seMalaysia (PAS) indicated it was non-committal on how it would view such a vote in Parliament.

"We will wait and see whether there is a need (to support it)," said PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang after the opposition Islamic party's mass rally in Kelantan on Saturday night.

Questions about a vote against Datuk Seri Najib came about after an MP from Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) filed a no-confidence motion in Parliament on Saturday.

He cited the Premier's alleged failure to adequately explain reports that said investigators were looking into troubled state fund 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) and had found US$700 million (S$967 million) in his personal bank accounts. Mr Najib has denied any wrongdoing while the anti-corruption commission said the money was political funding from unspecified Middle East donors.

Without PAS support, the opposition is left with 74 MPs, and would need to convince about 50 per cent of that number from the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) to cross the aisle to deny the government a simple majority of 112. The federal Parliament has 222 seats. Even if PAS' 14 representatives merely abstain, 30 of Mr Najib's colleagues would have to break ranks.

Analysts feel the chances of a no-confidence vote on Mr Najib's leadership succeeding are slim now, as BN lawmakers are averse to risking their party positions, especially against such odds.

"You don't know if your comrades will vote like you, or be tempted back to toe the party line," S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies senior fellow Oh Ei Sun told The Straits Times.

In addition, the no-confidence motion is listed as the 25th out of 28 motions for the parliamentary session which begins today, meaning it is unlikely to be heard.

There is also some confusion within and outside PAS about its leaders' stance on a no-confidence vote against Mr Najib. Datuk Seri Hadi's stance on Saturday is already a softer one as compared to an outright rebuff by him in July against such a move.

PAS secretary-general Takiyuddin Hassan, meanwhile, said the party would "rely on our opposition leader" and PKR president Wan Azizah Wan Ismail "to make our decision" on the no-confidence vote, although he admitted PAS had not yet discussed the matter.

PAS itself has been rocked by the exit of a moderate faction that included seven MPs last month. Most of these rebels have formed Parti Amanah Negara and quickly joined hands with PKR and the Democratic Action Party in a new pact called Pakatan Harapan (Alliance of Hope).

Shannon Teoh

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 19, 2015, with the headline 'PAS non-committal on no-confidence vote'. Print Edition | Subscribe