PM Najib: We need two-thirds majority in Parliament

KUALA LUMPUR • Malaysia's Prime Minister Najib Razak, who has struggled politically in the last two years after the 1MDB scandal was uncovered, yesterday broached the topic of having a "two-thirds majority" in Parliament.

This was the first time he had mentioned a supermajority in the 222-seat federal Parliament since his ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition lost it nine years ago in the 2008 general election - a year before he became Prime Minister.

Datuk Seri Najib was speaking at a townhall session in Kuala Lumpur attended by mostly Malay Muslim women, when discussion turned to a controversial Bill in Parliament regarding the conversion of children to Islam.

"We need... a two-thirds majority. I don't have a two-thirds majority," Prime Minister Najib was quoted as saying by the Malay Mail Online news site.

Malaysiakini news quoted him as saying: "We need a two-thirds majority to change the Constitution… but we don't have that. What we want to do is one thing, what we can do is another. But if women give us a two-thirds majority, that's a different story."

The Umno-led BN coalition held two-thirds of all seats in the House in the country's first 11 general elections since independence. But it lost this supermajority in the 2008 and 2013 elections when scandals depressed its popularity.

When Mr Najib was hit in 2015 by the scandal involving state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), there were loud whispers that he would be ousted soon and that BN would not be able to rebound from this issue.

But his fortunes have improved since June last year when he sacked his critics in Umno, and later pulled opposition Parti Islam SeMalaysia - Umno's long time rival for Malay votes - into his orbit.

The opposition parties, meanwhile, have failed to stop their endless bickering.

The 13-party BN pact has 132 seats in Parliament - 16 shy of regaining the two-thirds majority.

Malaysiakini quoted an analyst last week as saying that 16 wards were won by the opposition in 2013 with 3,000 votes or fewer, meaning these are marginal opposition seats.

According to the analyst, 13 of these 16 constituencies are dominated by Malays who are generally pro-Najib today.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 05, 2017, with the headline 'PM Najib: We need two-thirds majority in Parliament'. Print Edition | Subscribe