Vote of confidence best way to determine prime minister’s position

By Fakhrurrazi Rashid

The position of Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin and the Perikatan Nasional (PN) government is at a crossroadsafter PKR leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim claimed he had convincing majority support on September 23, 2020.

Several MPs have sent a no-confidence motion to the prime minister following the negligence of the prime minister in managing the recovery movement control order (RMCO), especially the careless attitudes of the PN Cabinet which sparked the third wave of Covid-19.

A vote of no confidence is not a new thing. Earlier this year, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad had submitted a no-confidence motion to the prime minister, Muhyiddin Yassin. The motion was placed at No. 27 in the Dewan Rakyat order paper on July 13, 2020, and it has never been debated until today.

The question is, what is the significance of the Opposition MPs sending a no-confidence motion if it cannot be decided in Parliament? Does the PN government dare to support this motion for debate?

Backbencher MPs need to push vote of confidence

The fact is, a vote of no confidence in the prime minister has never happened in the history of the Malaysian Parliament. It has become the practice of the Malaysian Parliament that the motions from Opposition MPs are difficult to be brought to debate in Parliament.

Although the Opposition Leader brought a vote of no confidence in the prime minister in the Dewan Rakyat, it could not guarantee that the motion would be debated.

This happened on 5 November 2015, the motion of no confidence against Datuk Sri Najib Razak submitted by the then Opposition Leader Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail was only accepted by the Speaker as motion No. 31 in the Dewan Rakyat Order Paper.

But, the vote never happened. To overcome this limitation, isn’t it better for the PN backbencher MPs to bring a motion of no confidence to the prime minister?

A vote of confidence in the prime minister occurred in 1976 when the Dewan Rakyat submitted a motion of confidence to Tun Hussein Onn who had just taken over as prime minister after Tun Razak’s death.

Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Takiyuddin Hassan once stated that PAS will bring a motion of confidence to show it to the prime minister at the parliamentary session on July 13. This vote is believed to be easier and pragmatic to test support for the prime minister, because it is brought by the government.

The vote of confidence from government MPs is more effective than the Opposition. Their insistence will put direct pressure on the prime minister and the Cabinet in Parliament.

If the Cabinet fails to bring a motion of confidence in parliament, then the risk of the prime minister losing support is quite high and could cause the government to collapse or elections to be held as soon as possible.

In this matter, the PN Backbenchers Club (PNBBC), chaired by Datuk Seri Shahidan Kassim, needs to urge the prime minister to agree to a vote of confidence to prove parliamentary support for the PN government. This move is appropriate because some MPs who support PN have also criticised the administration of Muhyiddin, especially Umno MPs.

On October 13, 2020, the political bureau of the Umno Supreme Council considered withdrawing from PN and will give new conditions to the prime minister if he wants to maintain Umno’s support for PN.

Unfortunately, only one government MP sent a motion of no-confidence, namely Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah. This action is very disappointing because government MPs, including Umno MPs who are quite vocal with the prime minister, are more focused on political negotiations and bargaining than appearing in parliament to prove that Muhyiddin still has support.

If half of the 113 PN government MPs demand that this vote of trust be submitted by the cabinet in the Dewan Rakyat, of course it will bind the prime minister to bow to the request or the government will fall.

To ensure government is responsible

If Muhyiddin Yasin survives the vote of confidence, he can not last comfortably because there are other ways to show lawmakers’ vote of no confidence to the prime minister, such as voting to reject the Budget 2021 and Bill to be tabled by the government.

The fact is, backbencher MPs need to experience a phase of change in Malaysia’s democratic system. From a bloc of MPs who are always in control and become a pack in the cabinet, to the MPs who are loud and critical to the leaders to ensure the government is more responsible.

Government MPs should also be open and urge the prime minister to prove his support in Parliament, not run away and only play immature political polemics. They are in fact the determinants of government stability in parliament.

It is not wrong for pro-government MPs to support the prime minister if the government is truly convincing. But, if the government is supported yet fails in managing the country, then they need to be held accountable, to penalize the cabinet led by the prime minister.

In fact, the vote of trust in line with the provisions of the Federal Constitution and Parliament should be given space to determine the position of the PN government. Backbencher MPs and the Cabinet need to consider this vote of trust to end the endless political turmoil.

The reality is, while political leaders are planning to get the numbers and the search for a future prime minister, the people are already feeling unhappy and disappointed with the protracted Malaysian political crisis.

Malaysia needs a government that has legitimacy and a strong mandate in parliament to face the era of the critical Covid-19 crisis and the dire state of the people’s economy.


— Published in Malay Mail on 20 October 2020.

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