Malaysian govt, PH opposition sign historic bipartisan deal

Polls will not be held before next August; govt to carry out reforms pushed by opposition

Malaysia is not expected to go to the polls for at least another year under a historic bipartisan deal signed between the government and main opposition bloc Pakatan Harapan yesterday that paves the way for political stability and institutional reforms.

Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob, accompanied by several members of his administration, inked the deal with PH, led by Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) president Anwar Ibrahim, at a signing ceremony in Malaysia's Parliament, hours after the Lower House sat for the first time under Datuk Seri Ismail's administration.

Mr Ismail said in a statement that the deal, which is called the Memorandum of Understanding for Transformation and Political Stability, covered six main areas.

Some of the key areas of reform include transforming administration, empowering Parliament and also strengthening the independence of the judiciary, Mr Ismail said yesterday. "The 'Malaysian Family' spirit stresses on unity, camaraderie and togetherness. This has manifested itself in the MOU between the government and (Harapan) this evening," he said.

The deal also outlines that Parliament will not be dissolved before August next year, meaning Malaysia will not face a general election for at least another year, said PKR's communications director Fahmi Fadzil, and this was also confirmed by several other opposition leaders.

Mr Fahmi said in a tweet in Bahasa Malaysia yesterday: "PH will remain as Opposition. Parliament will not be dissolved before 31.7.2022."

Federal Territories Minister and Cabinet member Shahidan Kassim said yesterday that part of the deal - also termed by some as a Confidence and Supply Bill Agreement (CSA) - outlines that PH would abstain in any vote on key government Bills.

According to terms of the agreement reported by Malaysiakini, PH said it would back or abstain during the budget and supply vote in Parliament only if Budget 2022 and other supply Bills had first been negotiated by both sides.

More details of the agreement are expected to be made public today. "The government is confident that this agreement will not only put aside all political differences, but enables national recovery to be done holistically and with inclusivity," Mr Ismail said.

The government and PH announced that an accord had been reached on Sunday after weeks of negotiations. But the deal came under threat a few times, including when reports emerged that Najib Razak - the former premier convicted of corruption for the 1MDB scandal - will be given an advisory role in the new government.

The tide turned in favour of the deal on Friday when Mr Ismail announced a series of specific reform offers to be undertaken by his government. Among those proposed were limiting the term of prime minister to 10 years, tabling an anti-party hopping Bill in Parliament and implementing the lowering of the voting age from 21 to 18.

The agreement outlines that the Bills for limiting the PM's term, anti-hopping and the new voting age reform must pass through Parliament in the first half of next year. Parliamentary reforms must be tabled by the second House meeting of next year. All reforms outlined in the agreement are to be carried out within a year before an election can be called.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 14, 2021, with the headline 'Malaysian govt, PH opposition sign historic bipartisan deal'. Subscribe