The case for a no-confidence vote

Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s motion of no confidence against Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin is doomed, for now at least.

There is no way that the ruling Perikatan Nasional (PN) or Muhyiddin himself would want to risk losing power. And they have a great excuse not to debate the motion – the country is struggling to contain the Covid-19 pandemic.

The government has already said that due to the pandemic and measures being taken, the first meeting of the third term of the 14th Parliament will only be held for one day, not 15 days as earlier scheduled.

I suspect that if not for the constitutional requirement that it be held – Article 55 of the Federal Constitution states that the Yang di-Pertuan Agong “shall not allow six months to lapse between the last sitting in one session… and the date appointed for its first meeting on the next session” – the government would have gladly requested the king to prorogue it for some more months.

In fact, Dewan Rakyat was originally scheduled to meet on March 9, a date fixed by the earlier Pakatan Harapan (PH) government. But when some PPBM MPs led by Muhyiddin and PKR MPs led by Azmin Ali abandoned PH to form the government with Umno and PAS support, Muhyiddin changed the date.

Parliamentary rules allow the prime minister as the “leader of the house” to change the dates of Dewan Rakyat meetings.

It is usual for government business to take precedence over private member’s bills and motions in Parliament. What this means is that Mahathir’s motion will not be debated because it is a one-day sitting and, this being the month of Ramadan, the sitting will break before 6pm.

Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Takiyuddin Hassan has revealed some of the business of government that needs to be considered by the 222 MPs. This includes the tabling of two supplementary bills related to Budget 2020 that need to be approved in view of the government’s Covid-19 economic stimulus package to help businesses survive.

Takiyuddin said, however, the bills would be tabled for first reading only and that the second reading would take place when Dewan Rakyat sits again in July.

In addition, Dewan Rakyat will deal with a motion to appoint a new Public Accounts Committee chairman, and another to name Anwar Ibrahim as opposition leader. Also on the table is the appointment of parliamentary select committees, now that a new government is in power.

Time will also be taken up by the opening of the meeting by the king, which will be attended by both MPs and the 70 senators, although the king’s speech will only be debated at the July meeting and the usual ceremony would be dispensed with in view of the social distancing rules in place.

This means, Mahathir’s motion will almost certainly be pushed off to the July meeting. By then, anything can happen.

And that is precisely what Muhyiddin and Azmin and Umno and PAS will be hoping for.

The delay in bringing in the motion will allow them to further consolidate their hold on MPs.

The more Muhyiddin delays any motion of no-confidence, the more time he has to strengthen his position.

We don’t have to look too far: see what has happened in Perak and is happening in Kedah where PH assemblymen have switched camps.

Already we have seen how quickly Muhyiddin went about replacing many heads of GLCs and government-related agencies with MPs from Umno and PAS.

That is why the statements by some politicians and political analysts that this is not the time to bring the motion of no-confidence against Muhyiddin in Parliament as the country is battling the pandemic makes little sense to me.

For one, this is a democratic country. It does not mean that just because we are taking measures to contain the pandemic, we can ignore the democratic process. Both can be, and should be, handled at the same time. That is the mark of a good government and a responsible legislature.

For another, it’s naïve to expect the opposition to remain silent when it feels it has been robbed of its mandate to govern – especially now that the pandemic situation is improving.

Already it has lost the momentum to take its argument to the people due to the Covid-19 pandemic. If not for the virus creating panic, and resulting in the lockdown, PH would have gone around the country holding gatherings to convince the people that it has been “cheated” of its mandate to rule by some “betrayers” and “traitors”.

We don’t know what would have come out of it. Perhaps people would have taken to the streets to demand that Muhyiddin resign. Perhaps not.

But many more voters would have been made aware that this government does not have the people’s mandate to rule.

Even Muhyiddin was honest enough to admit that his government was not elected by the people.

Also, if Muhyiddin – despite the need to concentrate on the fight against Covid-19 – can make his political moves, such as replacing heads of GLCs and agencies with politicians from parties that can help him stay in power and working, with PN partners, to consolidate power in the states, why can’t PH also play politics?

The question now is this: will the Dewan Rakyat speaker allow the no-confidence motion to be debated, given the short time?

Personally, I would like an end to all this politicking so that the national leadership can get on with governing the country, especially now when the economy is in deep trouble and people are losing jobs.

That is why I think it is important to put to the test the no-confidence motion against Muhyiddin.

We will then know who has more support, and that group should then be accepted by all and allowed to govern the country until the next general election.

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.

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