KUALA LUMPUR - All eyes will be on the Speaker of the Johor assembly as the state legislature sits on Thursday (Sept 10), amid intense speculation over a hung assembly and possible defections of several assemblymen.
Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin’s Perikatan Nasional (PN) pact in Malaysia’s second-richest state are faced with uncertainty over the status and loyalty of ex-chief minister Osman Sapian.
Datuk Osman is a member of Tan Sri Muhyiddin’s Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu) but has been seen in viral videos with leaders of a new rival party set up by former premier Mahathir Mohamad.
If Mr Osman leaves or gets kicked out of Bersatu, both PN and the opposition Pakatan Harapan will have 28 assemblymen each in the assembly.
Johor PN currently has 29 seats in the state assembly against PH’s 27.
Johor Speaker Suhaizan Kayat said he would be the tie breaker in the event of a no-confidence vote.
“If there is a hung assembly, the Speaker will cast the deciding vote,” Mr Suhaizan, who is from opposition Parti Amanah Negara, told The Straits Times.
He said that as of Tuesday (Sept 8), no such motions had been proposed for the session. A motion of no-confidence has to be proposed 14 days before the assembly, which will convene on Thursday and on Sunday (Sept 13), after a one-day session on May 14.
If Chief Minister Hasni Mohammad loses the vote, he can either resign or advise the Sultan to dissolve the state assembly.
“As of now, I do not expect a dissolution of the assembly. I think the session will run smoothly,” said Mr Suhaizan, adding that Mr Osman has not requested to sit on the opposition bench.
Political sources say that PN is trying to bring over assemblymen from Parti Keadilan Rakyat and Amanah into the ruling coalition before acting on Mr Osman, or the assembly sitting, to avoid a premature dissolution.
Sabah state in eastern Malaysia is holding state-wide polls later this month after a spate of defections and a failed coup.
“There are efforts to entice individuals to join PN to boost its numbers but so far no one has switched sides,” an opposition Johor politician told ST.
There is also talk of Bersatu lawmakers joining Pejuang. Five Bersatu assemblymen met with Johor’s monarch Sultan Ibrahim Sultan Iskandar on Monday (Sept 7), to affirm that they will not be switching to the opposition, but this did not include former Menteri Besar Osman.
Bersatu’s disciplinary board had announced Mr Osman’s expulsion last week following reports that he had campaigned for rival Parti Pejuang Tanah Air at the recent Slim by-election in Perak but later made a U-turn and said there was no evidence that he had done so.
Despite this, Mr Osman has persisted in consorting with Pejuang party leaders, and a second video went viral on Monday.
In June, Johor’s Sultan Ibrahim Sultan Iskandar expressed his disappointment with the state’s political turmoil.
“If there is power grabbing happening among the elected representatives, then I will immediately dissolve the Johor state assembly,” he had warned.
“PN Johor will try to avoid state polls in order to focus on handling the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, in particular the economy,” said political science professor Awang Azman Awang Pawi of Universiti Malaya.
“I think they will wait for nationwide general elections which are expected by the year-end,” he added.
If state polls are called, it would come at a trying time for Umno and Bersatu, who are still squabbling over seat allocations among the two parties and fellow ally Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS) at the federal level.
“State polls are not appropriate for the people right now. Rather than politicking and power grabbing, we would prefer to have a stable government. The people are quite disappointed with what is happening now, lawmakers jumping here and there. They feel they have no say,” said Johor PKR chief Syed Ibrahim Syed Noh.