Malaysia's Parliament allows vote on Muhyiddin's leadership

Malaysia's Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin took power after leading defectors from Pakatan Harapan to form the government along with former opposition parties. PHOTO: AFP

KUALA LUMPUR - Malaysia's Parliament will allow a vote of no confidence in Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin moved by his predecessor Mahathir Mohamad, although it is unlikely that it will be held in the upcoming one-day sitting on May 18.

Speaker Ariff Yusof said on Friday (May 8) the motion was in accordance with regulations.

The Speaker on Thursday rejected a separate confidence vote in Tun Mahathir, who resigned as premier amid a political imbroglio in February, as unconstitutional.

"As Speaker, I must study and ensure all motions submitted meet and abide by the Standing Orders to uphold the supremacy of the law," he said in a statement.

However, Tan Sri Ariff only said the motion was accepted to be "brought to the upcoming House of Representatives meeting" without specifying if it would be on May 18 or in July when Parliament is due to reconvene.

He did, however, state that the sitting later this month would begin with the King's annual opening speech and the rest of the meeting would be "only discussing government motions and bills".

The Straits Times has learnt that, as of last week, parliamentary seating arrangements indicate that Tan Sri Muhyiddin's loose Perikatan Nasional (PN) alliance has 113 seats and the opposition 107. Two MPs remain independent.

The two confidence motions were submitted this week on the back of growing instability within the two-month-old PN - formed after Tan Sri Muhyiddin bolted from the previous ruling Pakatan Harapan coalition - which has been saddled with constant bickering over the spoils of victory and the handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

Analysts believe the motion may not see the light of day as it could be buried, placed behind other government business in parliament's order paper, but the move has created more uncertainty for PN.

"You shake the tree trunk and some goodies might drop," Singapore Institute of International Affairs' senior fellow Oh Ei Sun, told The Straits Times. He was referring to those pushing for the motion.

Umno's former premier Najib Razak has dismissed the possibility of PH returning to power on the back of the no confidence vote as, even if it were successful, Mr Muhyiddin could ask the King to dissolve Parliament and pave the way for fresh polls.

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"If the motion of no-confidence fails in Parliament then the backdoor government excuse can no longer be used. It will not benefit Pakatan Harapan," he said late Thursday.

Sabah Chief Minister Shafie Apdal's motion to affirm Langkawi MP Tun Mahathir as having majority support in Parliament was rejected by Speaker Ariff on the grounds that it impinged on the King's constitutional authority to appoint the prime minister.

Mr Muhyiddin was sworn in by the monarch on March 1 after leading PH defectors to form the government along with former opposition parties just 22 months after the Umno-led Barisan Nasional's first ever general election defeat.

But he has faced grumbles over the make-up of his Cabinet, and his Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia and Umno are at loggerheads over political appointments in Johor - the birth state of both the premier and Umno.

In the past fortnight, Mr Muhyiddin's authority has been repeatedly undermined. Leading figures in his loose alliance said they only supported his leadership to topple PH, with Umno - which has the most MPs among members of the ruling alliance - stalling on plans to formalise a PN agreement.

On Monday, nine out of 13 states - including states controlled by PN - initially refused to adhere to or fully comply with his administration's order to kickstart the economy by relaxing curbs aimed at stemming the Covid-19 pandemic.

Another set of proposals filed by former law minister Liew Vui Keong was only partially accepted, according to Speaker Ariff.

Batu Sapi MP Liew said in a statement that motions on whether Mr Muhyiddin or Dr Mahathir commanded the confidence of Parliament were thrown out, but a request to sit for eight days this month instead of just one was accepted.

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