A Parliament meet of many firsts

PETALING JAYA: With an opposition bench made up almost entirely of Malay-Muslim MPs, the first sitting of the 15th Parliament today is set to be a keenly watched one.

The sitting today is expected to set the tone for further meetings of the Dewan Rakyat under Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s unity government.

For the first time in history, PAS is the largest bloc in Parliament with 43 MPs.

The Islamist party is part of Perikatan which has 74 MPs.

Although the Perikatan Nasional partners include Bersatu along with Gerakan, the latter failed to win a single seat in the 15th General Election, leaving the Opposition with only MPs from Malay-based Bersatu and Islamist PAS. Only two of the opposition MPs are non-Muslim bumiputra.

The first challenge for the House today will be the ballot to elect a new Speaker to replace Tan Sri Azhar Azizan Harun.

After that, newly-elected MPs will be sworn in before the House and subsequently, new deputy Speakers will be elected.

The government’s candidate for Speaker is widely believed to be Datuk Johari Abdul.

Johari won the Sungai Petani seat in 2008 and defended it twice successfully, but he did not run in the GE15.

In a video posted yesterday, the PKR leader said he had quit as Gurun state assemblyman, further strengthening speculation he is set to take over from Azhar.

For Perikatan, it is understood that former home minister Tan Sri Radzi Sheikh Ahmad has been nominated for Speaker.

Meanwhile, Pakatan Harapan’s Lanang MP Alice Lau, Barisan Nasional’s Cameron Highlands MP Datuk Ramli Mohd Nor and Perikatan’s Datuk Mas Ermieyati Samsudin are understood to have been nominated for the deputy speaker’s post.

There will be more than 90 new MPs who are set to make their parliamentary debut, constituting about 40% of the 222 seats in the House.

The outcome of the vote of confidence on Anwar’s premiership, which is slated as item No. 8 on the Order Paper, will also be widely watched by political observers.

Anwar is expected to obtain the support of two-thirds of the MPs – to be exact, 148 out of 222.

Following the confidence vote, a motion on emoluments for civil servants is also expected to be discussed and passed.

Currently, Pakatan leads the unity government with 81 seats, Barisan has 30 seats, Gabungan Parti Sarawak (23), Gabungan Rakyat Sabah (six), Parti Warisan Sabah (three), two independents and one each from Parti Bangsa Malaysia, Parti Kesejahteraan Demokratik Malaysia and Muda.

Last Friday, these parties signed an agreement to commit to the Malaysia Unity Government led by Anwar.

Anwar said the agreement was a commitment to support a stable government until the completion of the five-year term.

The terms of the agreement stated that each party must support the Prime Minister in motions related to confidence, supply or procedure that could affect the legitimacy of the Federal Government.

It also stated each party must ensure the support of their MPs and any lawmaker who failed to do so would be in violation of his responsibility towards the party and must vacate his seat

After the GE15 on Nov 19, no party secured a simple majority with the three main coalitions – Pakatan, Perikatan and Barisan getting 82, 73 and 30 seats respectively, resulting in a hung Parliament.

The King then proposed the formation of a unity government.

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