A timely royal meeting for Malaysia: The Star contributor

The writer says all eyes will be on the Malay Rulers special meeting to fight Covid-19 during the Emergency.

A view of the Royal Palace in Kuala Lumpur, on June 9, 2021.
A view of the Royal Palace in Kuala Lumpur, on June 9, 2021.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

KUALA LUMPUR (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Next week, the King will wrap up his series of meetings with political party leaders that started last Wednesday (June 9).

So far, the key takeaways the public got from the politicians' audiences with Yang di-Pertuan Agong Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri'ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah are:

PKR president Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim pleaded with His Majesty not to extend the Emer-gency beyond Aug 1, and they did not speak of the possibility of a change of government.

PAS deputy president Datuk Seri Tuan Ibrahim Tuan Man discussed the Covid-19 situation, Emergency and reconvening the Parliament.

Not-yet-registered Pejuang's interim chairman Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad suggested forming a National Operations Council (NOC) to the King. But Dr Mahathir was advised that such a proposal should come from the government.

Umno president Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi related to the King that his party wanted Parliament to be convened and the state of Emergency not to be continued after Aug 1.

Tomorrow, the King will speak to more politicians. And on Wednesday, Malaysians' focus - with bated breath - will be on the Malay Rulers special meeting at Istana Negara to discuss the implementation of various efforts to fight Covid-19 during the Emergency.

Universiti Malaya political analyst Dr Muhammad Asri Mohd Ali feels that the priority of the Malay Rulers is the state of Emergency - whether it would be lifted on Aug 1 or extended.

"Given the Covid-19 and political situation, most likely the Emergency will be extended. The question remains, if we continue the Emergency, do we allow Parliament to be in session. If we open Parliament, how about the vote of no confidence?" he said.

"The Rulers need some kind of guarantee that political stability and unity among politicians can be achieved while we are facing the Covid-19 pandemic."

Universiti Utara Malaysia political lecturer Prof Dr Mohd Azizu-ddin Mohd Sani believed that the Rulers will discuss how to deal with the political crisis in the country amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

"What is the best option? The Rulers can discuss the formation of a new government. They will also discuss whether to extend the state of Emergency," he said.

According to Prof James Chin - from the Asia Institute at the University of Tasmania, Australia - the key item that the Rulers will discuss is the Emergency.

"What will be the Rulers' attitude towards the continuation of the Emergency? Will the Rulers put pressure on the government for Parliament to be opened?" he said.

What are the political possibilities after the Rulers meeting?

Prof Mohd Azizuddin gave three scenarios.

Scenario 1: We need political stability as the Perikatan Nasional government's majority is questioned by the Opposition. One solution is the NOC suggestion. However, he doesn't think this is likely to happen as the government, Pakatan Harapan and Umno have already rejected the idea.

Scenario 2: The Emergency is extended, and Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin's government remains. However, he feels that this might be an unpopular option as many Malaysians want the Emergency to be lifted.

"The problem with this scenario is the government will could become unstable due to political tussles with the Opposition. As a compromise, the politicians can agree that the government will remain until an election - they must agree on a date too," he said.

Scenario 3: End the Emergency and open Parliament, and let the MPs decide on the next government. This has to be mediated by the Royal Council to ensure political stability.

Universiti Malaya's Muhammad Asri contended that Muhyiddin would continue as the Prime Minister.

"If Parliament is open, he would survive a no-confidence vote since the Opposition is not united, or the Dewan Rakyat Speaker would prevent the process from happening," he said.

One of the main takeaways from the political leaders' audiences with the King, Muhammad Asri said, was that the Opposition could not put up a united front, and it seems to be status quo - PN as the government is still intact.

"Look at Tun M; he thought that his leadership and service to the nation were still needed. That is why he suggested the NOC, which means the leader of the government must be replaced and someone new must be appointed," he said.

"When Tun M came up with the NCO idea, it meant the Opposition is not united, Tun M wants to be a leader, and at the same time, Anwar doesn't have enough support to make him a potential new PM for a new government."

When discussing with politicians and political analysts what could happen after the Rulers' meeting on Wednesday, there are different opinions.

One popular possibility is that the Emergency will be lifted on Aug 1, and Parliament opened. Some argued Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia president Muhyiddin would remain as Prime Minister as the Speaker will not allow a no-confidence vote.

The Prime Minister's big challenge then will be passing the Budget Bill at the end of the year. "He can pass it with a Confidence and Supply Agreement. Some Opposition MPs can give him 'confidence' and the PM gives them 'supply' in return," a political analyst who did not want to be identified told me.

The analyst argued that the advantage remains with Muhyiddin. "He is the PM, and he has the power of incumbency," he said.

What will the Rulers decide? That's the billion-ringgit question.

  • The writer is a columnist with the paper. The Star is a member of The Straits Times media partner Asia News Network, an alliance of 23 news media entities.