Malaysia's Parliament allows vote on PM's leadership

But motion of no confidence against Muhyiddin brought by former PM Mahathir may still not see light of day

Speaker Ariff Yusof said that the motion was in accordance with regulations.
Speaker Ariff Yusof said that the motion was in accordance with regulations. PHOTO: BERNAMA

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 yesterday that the motion was in accordance with regulations.

The Speaker had on Thursday rejected a separate confidence vote in Tun Dr 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 Mr Muhyiddin bolted from the previous ruling Pakatan Harapan coalition - which has been battered by 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 leader and Malaysia's ousted premier Najib Razak has dismissed the possibility of PH returning to power on the back of the no confidence vote. He said even if it were successful, Mr Muhyiddin could ask the King to dissolve Parliament and pave the way for fresh polls. "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," Najib said late on Thursday.

 
 
 

Sabah Chief Minister Shafie Apdal's motion to affirm Langkawi MP, Dr 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 since had to contend with grumbling over the makeup of his Cabinet, and his Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia and Umno are at loggerheads over political appointments in Johor - the birthplace of both parties.

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.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 09, 2020, with the headline 'Malaysia's Parliament allows vote on PM's leadership'. Subscribe