September 30, 2022
SINGAPORE – Malaysia’s Parliament will sit on Monday for its final meeting this year, in what could also potentially be a last meeting for its current batch of lawmakers amid talks of a possible dissolution paving the way for early polls.
Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob is set to try and push several legislative agendas during the prolonged 32-day meeting, although this duration would almost certainly be cut short if the government caves in to demands from sections of the ruling Umno party to hold an election this year.
With the monsoon season – which runs through most of December – expected to result in flooding in several states, a general election in November is seen as the most realistic window for polls this year. However, this would mean dissolving Parliament earlier than its current end date of Nov 29.
The government has already brought forward the Parliament sitting by three weeks – giving itself the option of potentially dissolving the Lower House after a crucial federal budget is tabled on Oct 7.
However, Datuk Seri Ismail – who wants to delay polls until next year as he looks to consolidate his own position within Umno and to retain his premiership – still has several outstanding legislative agendas.
A Bill on political funding and a move to limit the term of a prime minister are among key legislation that his government had committed to in the past.
But it remains unclear whether both landmark Bills have secured enough political backing in Malaysia’s fragmented Parliament to see them being tabled.
Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar told The Straits Times on Wednesday that more engagements were needed for the political funding Bill, with just days left before the Parliament meets again.
He had previously said that the government aimed to present the Bill, which will regulate the source of political funding, at the October meeting.
The government has also not provided any updates on the proposal to limit the tenure of a prime minister to a maximum of two five-year terms, even though it was contained in a confidence and supply agreement (CSA) between Mr Ismail and the biggest opposition bloc, Pakatan Harapan (PH), inked last year.
Mr Ismail seeks bipartisan backing for any major legislation and supply bills in Parliament, as he leads a coalition government with only a single-digit majority.
Bills that require constitutional amendments need the approval of two-thirds of lawmakers in Parliament.
His government managed to pass legislation to curb party hopping only in July, despite an early version of the Bill being ready as far back as April.
It had to be deferred during the April meeting due to concerns from both government and opposition politicians.
A key legislation to ban smoking for an entire future generation is also set to be presented in Parliament again, after a previous iteration of the Bill was referred to a special committee for further scrutiny after it failed to gain broad support during the Parliament meeting in August.
Analysts believe that should Mr Ismail fail to fulfil his legislative agendas at the upcoming meeting, this would not harm the backing he is receiving from PH as both the Premier and opposition parties want the same thing – for elections to be held next year.
“While publicly the opposition will call the PM to fulfil all the points (in the CSA)… it is unlikely that they will withdraw support or initiate a vote of no confidence against Ismail. Their primary focus now is the general election and for it to be held next year,” Bower Group Asia deputy managing director Asrul Hadi Abdullah Sani told ST.
A faction in Umno aligned to party president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi is pushing for the election to be held this year as it looks to capitalise on Umno’s recent electoral wins at the Melaka and Johor state legislative elections.
However, Mr Ismail, who is only a vice-president in Umno, is looking to delay polls in order to consolidate his own position so that he could return as a PM candidate should Umno win the next election, which must be held by September next year.