‘Slim chance of halting Budget’

KUALA LUMPUR: The opposition may get a last shot at “derailing” Budget 2021 before it is finally passed in the Dewan Rakyat today. But their chances of stopping it now may be slim, say several political analysts.

International Islamic University Malaysia legal adviser Prof Dr Nik Ahmad Kamal Nik Mahmod said the repeated failures by the opposition to garner support to derail the budget during bloc voting indicate that Budget 2021 will be passed.

“All the bloc votes were won by the government side. The hype about opposition MPs acting in concert has not materialised.

“This shows that the opposition parties are somewhat divided on fundamental issues, ” he said when contacted yesterday.

He believes a defeat at the committee stage would not be fatal to the ruling government as it only affects the allocation of a particular ministry whose budget was being debated.

“The Budget at the ministerial level is still negotiable and may be retabled after amendments, ” he said.However, there may be a last-ditch attempt by the opposition to derail the Budget at the third reading, which would have an impact on the government.

The call for a bloc vote, said Prof Nik Ahmad Kamal, may come in light of Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah’s call for MPs to vote for the third reading of the Budget “based on their conscience”.

“If a bloc vote is called and the government loses, the Prime Minister loses a vote of confidence. But it would not automatically lead to a dissolution of Parliament.

“The Yang di-Pertuan Agong can appoint a new prime minister but if there is no one with majority support, the King may appoint an interim prime minister until someone who commands majority support

in the Dewan Rakyat is chosen as prime minister, ” he said.

He added that other than support from Parti Warisan Sabah and Parti Pejuang Tanah Air MPs, the opposition, headed by Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, must get support from some Umno MPs if they want to stop the Budget from being passed.

“There must be a very strong reason for Umno MPs to move to the other side.

“There are factions within Umno following talk that some of their leaders may support Anwar. But I believe Umno has started to close ranks after the recent Perak Mentri Besar saga, ” Prof Nik Ahmad Kamal said.Political analyst at Universiti Sains Malaysia Prof Dr Sivamurugan Pandian also said the defeat of a ministerial allocation at the committee stage of debates would not cause the government to collapse.

He noted that it would be a different scenario if the opposition managed to defeat the Budget at the third reading through bloc voting.

“The government will not fall, but it will lose its moral and political legitimacy, ” he said.

If the Budget fails at the third reading, he said the Prime Minister could tender his resignation.

However, the King has the discretion to appoint a new leader who commands a majority in the House, while Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin is made interim Prime Minister until a general election is called.

“As for now, it depends on the extent to which the opposition side wants to rock the boat, knowing that the public is becoming restless with their politicking instead of prioritising the rakyat during this pandemic, ” he added.

He said it would be better for the opposition to play a check and balance role in the Dewan Rakyat rather than voting against Budget 2021 as it had already been passed at the policy and committee stages.

Universiti Malaya political analyst Prof Dr Awang Azman Awang Pawi said the idea that the Perikatan Nasional government will lose its legitimacy if Budget 2021 is not passed is more of an assumption because it is only a Westminster parliamentary convention.

“Efforts to topple the government will only happen if Anwar has enough numbers to show that he has the majority of MPs supporting him, ” he said.

On the motion of confidence or no confidence, he said Pakatan would still need support from Umno MPs.Dewan Rakyat Speaker Datuk Azhar Azizan Harun said if the Budget is defeated during the third reading, then it is deemed defeated.

Budget 2021 was tabled on Nov 6. Attempts by Pokok Sena MP Datuk Mahfuz Omar to call for a bloc vote at the end of the debate on the Budget at the policy stage on Nov 26 failed when only 13 MPs stood up in support instead of the required 15.

The opposition again called for bloc voting during debates on the allocations for the respective ministries at the committee stage on more than five occasions since Dec 1.The highest support the opposition has achieved through a bloc vote was 104 votes against 110 votes following the debate on the International Trade and Industry Ministry’s RM1.2bil allocation on Dec 2.

The allocations for the Education Ministry and Higher Education Ministry are the final two to be debated at the committee stage before Budget 2021 is scheduled to be passed today.

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