Vote of confidence first on the list

PETALING JAYA: A vote of confidence for the Prime Minister will be the first item on the agenda when the 15th Parliament sits on Dec 19.

This follows Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s acceptance of a challenge thrown at him by Perikatan Nasional chairman Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin to prove he has the numbers.

Muhyiddin had also claimed that he had enough support to be Prime Minister immediately after the general election, before the impasse was resolved when the King appointed Anwar to the post.

There are a few ways that the vote can be done, said outgoing Dewan Rakyat Speaker Tan Sri Azhar Azizan Harun (pic).

Azhar, who has been the Dewan Rakyat Speaker over the past two administrations since July 2020, said a vote of confidence can be moved on the first day of the Parliament, immediately after the swearing-in ceremony of the new Members of Parliament but before the King’s speech.

Azhar said a government MP would first have to file for the suspension of the King’s speech.

It would not be a first for the Dewan Rakyat, as it was done in 1999 by then Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, who was facing calls to surrender his premiership.

“When Parliament convenes on Dec 19, the first order of the day would be to elect the Speaker and Deputy Speakers, swearing in the MPs, and then the King’s speech.

“The move for the vote of confidence must be made by a government MP who is a minister, as only then can the vote be pushed up in the priority list as government business. Otherwise, it will be pushed to the lower end of the pile.

“Under normal circumstances, a vote for the Budget is usually a vote of confidence for a Prime Minister. However, as a mini-budget is pending, a vote for that too can be turned into a vote of confidence.

“The Prime Minister has to get the Speaker to announce that it would be treated as a vote of confidence,” he said.

Azhar, however, pointed out that a vote for the mini-budget might not necessarily reflect the real confidence as most MPs would not want to vote against a mini-budget. That might mean the postponement of civil servants’ salaries and the government’s operational expenses.

“Those who vote for the mini-budget would do so to ensure civil servants’ salaries are paid and the government continues to operate,” he added.

He said that the history of the UK Parliament, upon which the Malaysian Parliament is modelled, has shown that there are other ways of getting a vote of confidence.

In March 1944, then British Prime Minister Winston Churchill insisted that the House of Commons reverse a vote in favour of equal pay for women teachers.

Azhar said Churchill had opposed equal pay for women teachers, but he was defeated when the Bill was passed.

“Churchill, without discussing the merits of the issue, insisted that the Bill be refiled and be treated as an issue of confidence.

“He succeeded in persuading the House to delete the clause in question, by an overwhelming majority,” said Azhar.

He pointed out that Churchill then saw the female teacher pay-equality Bill as an opportunity for squashing opposition in general.

Azhar also said a vote on the King’s speech can be considered as a vote of confidence for the government of the day.

“However, due to our culture here, it is most unlikely ever to happen. No MP would vote against the King’s speech,” said Azhar.

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