Parliamentary opposition leader Wan Azizah Wan Ismail yesterday formally submitted a motion of no-confidence against Prime Minister Najib Razak despite slim expectations that the opposition would win enough support from Barisan Nasional (BN) lawmakers, if the motion is allowed to be debated at all.
The opposition bench has 87 MPs - after veteran leader Lim Kit Siang was suspended yesterday. This means that it needs 24 BN lawmakers to support the motion in the 222-seat Parliament, an almost impossible task.
Dr Wan Azizah, who announced the submission of the motion in the Parliament's lobby flanked by opposition leaders from the Pakatan Harapan alliance, said she was positive that the number of BN MPs who had lost confidence in PM Najib's leadership would be sufficient to carry the motion through.
Her confidence was likely buoyed by secret meetings held between opposition leaders and several senior BN MPs as they tried to cobble a wider front to topple Datuk Seri Najib.
Parliament Speaker Pandikar Amin Mulia had earlier asked the opposition to furnish him with a list of names to prove that it has a majority to table a confidence vote. The Speaker has the right to block the motion from being debated in the House.
But opposition MP Gobind Singh Deo said it would be unfair for MPs to commit to a stance now as the whole point of debating the issue was to convince MPs to support it. Mr Deo admitted to The Straits Times that it would not be easy to get sufficient support for the motion but stressed that "this is what the people expect and want".
Datuk Seri Najib has seen a big erosion of public support following scandals linked to the debt-laden state investment firm 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) that he strongly backed, and poor government answers on who had banked US$700 million (S$972 million) into his personal accounts.
BN strategic communications director Abdul Rahman Dahlan yesterday challenged opposition leaders, including Dr Wan Azizah and Democratic Action Party (DAP) stalwart Mr Lim, to quit their party posts if the bid to remove Mr Najib failed. Mr Lim, the opposition's most senior member, will be absent from Parliament for the next six months after he was suspended yesterday for allegedly insulting Speaker Pandikar.
The suspension motion noted that Mr Lim had accused Tan Sri Pandikar of "sabotaging" investigations into 1MDB. It was passed after a bloc vote of 107 "Yays" versus 77 "Nays", after a shouting match between government and opposition lawmakers. The opposition plans to file a motion to review the suspension.
Mr Lim joined several other opposition MPs who have been suspended since the 2013 general election.
Meanwhile, another vocal critic of Mr Najib, former Malaysian premier Mahathir Mohamad, will face a probe for potential defamation, Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi told the House.
Datuk Seri Zahid said police have opened three investigation papers to look into the former premier's alleged defamatory statements at a street rally in August.
Tun Dr Mahathir said he is concerned about the probe " because of manipulation of justice, manipulation of the law". He told Reuters in an interview: "Otherwise, according to the law, I have done nothing wrong."