December 19, 2022
KUALA LUMPUR – Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim will likely win three early tests of his majority on Monday, when the federal legislature reconvenes for the first time after the Nov 19 general election threw up Malaysia’s first hung Parliament.
His government, which consists of three main coalitions and some smaller outfits, is set to pick the Speaker and Deputy Speakers of Parliament, before calling a confidence vote on the Premier.
But what remains to be confirmed is whether the Pakatan Harapan chief indeed commands a two-thirds supermajority in the 222-strong chamber, which would allow his government to make sweeping changes to laws, including amending the Constitution and changing electoral rules.
After vying with former premier Muhyiddin Yassin for the King’s nod to form the government, Datuk Seri Anwar cobbled together the unity government which he claims is made up of all MPs except the 74 in Tan Sri Muhyiddin’s Perikatan Nasional.
On paper, this gives the Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) president exactly two-thirds support, or 148 MPs. But rumblings since his Cabinet was sworn in a fortnight ago may see him fall short.
Parti Bangsa Malaysia chief Larry Sng said “words cannot express my disappointment” after his party, where he is the sole MP, ended up with no ministers or deputies, although he later committed to giving his full support to the government.
While Sabah’s ruling Gabungan Rakyat Sabah (GRS) coalition has also pledged its backing to Mr Anwar, a move by top figures in the state’s Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia chapter to leave Mr Muhyiddin’s party has raised questions of whether its four MPs, who won the election on the GRS ticket, have breached anti-party hopping rules that came into effect earlier this year.
Although GRS says they were already direct members of the pact, Bersatu claims they are still members of the party.
Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Armizan Ali’s insistence that he and the other three MPs have not left Bersatu seems to indicate uncertainty on this issue.
“We must also remember if there is a new party formed by (GRS chairman and former Sabah Bersatu chief) Hajiji Noor, we cannot join the party,” the Papar MP said last Thursday.
Even some in Mr Anwar’s own PKR are discomfited by how the Premier has watered down the party’s reformist ideals.
Pasir Gudang MP Hassan Karim, in a poem clearly directed at Mr Anwar, said “half my soul is dead” after the Cabinet was unveiled, with Umno chief Zahid Hamidi appointed as deputy premier despite facing trial for dozens of graft charges.
“You said we would not sell out principles for power,” the former Johor PKR chief wrote. “I feel defeated when we triumph without integrity.”
Last Wednesday, he also criticised PKR secretary-general Saifuddin Nasution Ismail for defending a security law which allows for detention without trial, reminding the party that it had decried such rules as draconian.
Yet again, Mr Hassan hit out at the leadership, saying a coalition agreement inked by leaders of the unity government had “become a sharp weapon” as it barred their MPs from voting by conscience in matters that “affect the government’s stability”.
“I am not a robot, not a zombie. I have my dignity. I would rather be beheaded,” the lawmaker said, although he stressed that he would still vote for “my friend the Prime Minister”.
Malaysian Indian Congress secretary-general Rajasekaran Thiyagarajan, whose party is a junior member of the Umno-led Barisan Nasional, also called for the coalition agreement to be discarded.
“It is a disgrace to a democratically elected Parliament and will make Malaysia a disgrace in the eyes of the world if it is enforced,” he said in a statement on Sunday.