KUALA LUMPUR , 29/01/2019. Prime Minister, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad (left) together with PPBM vice president Datuk Seri Mukhriz Mahathir (right) at the press conference after chairs the PPBM Supreme Council meeting at Yayasan Selangor Tower. Pix by Malay Mail / Hari Anggara.

INTENSE behind-the-scenes manoeuvring will take place between now and the July parliamentary sitting as Perikatan Nasional (PN) and Pakatan Harapan (PH) raise the tempo to snare more MPs from across the aisle, said analysts.

They told The Malaysian Insight that with PN holding a slim majority in the Dewan Rakyat, it is anyone’s game.

Merdeka Centre programme director Ibrahim Suffian said the politicking is expected to go on, and speculation and drama will abound ahead of and during the next Parliament session.

“But the upshot of it all is that both sides probably can’t get a very large majority.

Independent political analyst Khoo Kay Peng cited Perak, Kedah and Malacca’s change in support as examples of heavy manoeuvring.

“Both PN and PH are making it a new normal. No reason why this won’t continue,” he said, adding that both coalitions stand an equal chance of forming the government.

Key appointments to secure backing

Political scientist Wong Chin Huat said the outcome is likely to be more MPs appointed to key roles in ministries and government-linked companies.

“The outcome of this battle to court fence-sitters is more likely their enrichment (by way of) appointments as minister-level special envoys or heads of GLCs, rather than a change of government.”

Citing de facto law minister Takiyuddin Hassan’s statement that backbenchers will be given posts in GLCs and state agencies, he said currently, there are 38 backbencher MPs without such positions.

“There are 46 government MPs who are not ministers, deputy ministers, deputy speaker or menteri besar.

“Eight of them are already appointed to head government agencies or GLCs. We should expect 38 or more letters of appointment soon.”

The Sunway University professor said Malaysians should not assume that Parliament will definitely reconvene in July.

“All you need is a Parliament staff member, or even just someone in the vicinity, to test positive for Covid-19, and the sitting can be postponed all the way till November 17, or late October, when the national budget is tabled.”

Langkawi MP Dr Mahathir Mohamad was supposed to move a no-confidence vote against Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin during the single-day sitting on Monday. However, the meeting was cut short, with the order of business limited to only the royal address.

Parliament reconvening in July is not a sure thing as Covid-19 remains a threat, says a Sunway University don. – The Malaysian Insight file pic, May 21, 2020.
Parliament reconvening in July is not a sure thing as Covid-19 remains a threat, says a Sunway University don. – The Malaysian Insight file pic, May 21, 2020.

The following day, the Registrar of Societies revealed that Dr Mahathir is no longer chairman of Bersatu, as he quit the post in late February.

In a letter to the party dated May 5, RoS director-general Masyati Abang Ibrahim said Bersatu president Muhyiddin is now acting chairman, as provided for by the party constitution.

Ilham Centre executive director Mohd Azlan Zainal said the amount of support Muhyiddin commands remains a question despite him having been sworn in as prime minister.

He said the majority support by 114 MPs, which must be clearly proven, is still fragile.

“Of course, all support comes with a claim. Barisan Nasional feels entitled to positions as they are the dominant contributor of support to Muhyiddin.

“Muhyiddin has little choice but to appoint MPs to key positions in GLCs and state agencies to strengthen his support and balance out the internal pressure in the coalition, especially from Umno.

“In this time of crisis, Muhyiddin has to be clever about seizing the opportunity and space.”

The next Parliament session can be a big challenge, he added.

He said Muhyiddin has tried to win the public’s trust amid the coronavirus pandemic and resultant economic crisis by delivering people-centric speeches and spending big on stimulus packages.

However, said Azlan, if the no-confidence motion by Dr Mahathir had been successful, Muhyiddin would have had to prove the support he commanded and the legitimacy of his government.

On PH, he said the coalition could rethink its choice of prime minister as it now has Dr Mahathir and opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim as potential candidates.

PH components, however, must first reach an agreement among themselves to go along with the former prime minister’s proposed no-confidence motion. -THE MALAYSIAN INSIGHT


Veteran politician Dr Mahathir Mohamad said he would seek to oust Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin at every turn, scolding his successor for bringing back into power a graft-tainted party rejected by voters in a historic election two years ago.

The prospect of more political and policy uncertainty comes at a time when the nation is grappling with the health crisis and economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic.

On Wednesday, the 94-year-old Mahathir, who resigned the premiership in February, questioned the legitimacy of Muhyiddin’s two-and-a-half-month-old coalition with Umno.

“It’s wrong for this backdoor arrangement to be done. We want to give the people the rightful government that they chose. That is our aim,” Mahathir told Reuters in an interview conducted on video conferencing app Zoom.

Earlier this week, the government avoided a confidence vote tabled by Mahathir, insisting that Parliament gave priority to the fight against the coronavirus, and its economic fallout.

But Mahathir reckoned Muhyiddin’s alliance only held a two-seat majority in Parliament’s 222-seat lower house and said he would keep working with opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, despite past differences, to topple the government that replaced them.

“That is the narrowest majority any government in Malaysia ever had,” Mahathir said.

“(Muhyiddin) is going to be in very great trouble. Because whatever chance we have to prove that it is not legitimate for him to be the prime minister, we will do that.”

He said opposition parties would reject Bills that Muhyiddin’s administration brings to Parliament if a confidence vote is not allowed to be tabled.

“If everything he brings to Parliament is rejected, how does he continue?” Mahathir said.

Having led Malaysia for 22 years until 2003, Mahathir came out of retirement to join hands with former foes to oust then prime minister Najib Abdul Razak, who now faces corruption charges mostly related to the alleged looting of billions of dollars from the sovereign fund, 1MDB.

The multi-ethnic alliance led by Mahathir and Anwar scored a stunning victory in the 2018 election, toppling Najib and dumping Umno out of power for the first time since Malaysia’s independence from British colonial rule.

Najib, who co-founded 1MDB, has denied all wrongdoing.

Last week, prosecutors dropped money-laundering charges tied to 1MDB against Riza Shahriz Abdul Aziz, Najib’s stepson, after agreeing to a deal that officials said included the recovery of US$107.3 million from overseas assets.

– Reuters