2/3 majority again after 15 years

PETALING JAYA: After 15 years, a ruling coalition has returned with two-thirds’ majority to Dewan Rakyat, which begins its meeting today with special focus on the re-tabling of Budget 2023 as well as a White Paper and several Bills.

Not since Barisan Nasional lost its two-thirds majority back in the 12th General Election in 2008 has there been a ruling coalition with two-thirds majority until Malaysia’s first unity government.

The two-thirds’ majority in Dewan Rakyat will mean that the opening of the first meeting of the second session of the 15th Parliament will be closely watched by political observers and the rakyat.

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According to Dr Oh Ei Sun, a senior fellow at the Singapore Institute of International Affairs, it will be easier for Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim to push for legislative reforms. However, he noted that Anwar would have to use wisely the two-thirds majority of over 148 seats when carrying out reforms or lose it.

“In principle, it will be easier. But if the government proposes too ‘liberal’ items to be passed, then sooner or later, it will lose not only its two-thirds majority but also its simple majority,” he said.

Barisan Nasional had commanded a two-thirds majority in the Dewan Rakyat since the 1969 general election up until 2008 when it only clinched a majority with 140 seats.

Currently, Anwar’s unity government is supported by 149 MPs, consisting of 82 MPs from Pakatan Harapan, Barisan (30), Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS) (23), Gabungan Rakyat Sabah (GRS) (six), Warisan (three), two Independent MPs and one respectively from Parti KDM, Muda and PBM.

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While the passing of many Bills will not require a two-thirds majority in the Dewan Rakyat, it is mandated for any proposed amendment to the Federal Constitution.

Having a two-thirds majority will also make it simpler for the ruling coalition to approve Bills and motions in its favour.

However, the Dewan Rakyat had passed several Bills requiring a two-thirds majority, such as the Constitution (Amendment) Bill in July 2019 allowing the automatic registration of voters age 18 and their right to vote.

In December 2021, it also passed amendments to the Federal Constitution based on the Malaysia Agreement 1963 and again in July last year, when it agreed to constitutional changes prohibiting party-hopping.

Nusantara Academy for Strategic Research senior fellow Azmi Hassan said a two-thirds majority is not only crucial for legislative reforms but as a show of stability of Anwar’s government.

“Even if some pull out support, it will not necessarily collapse the administration, more so now with the anti-hopping law in place,” he said.

Universiti Sains Malaysia’s political expert Prof Dr Sivamurugan Pandian said the Parliament would be a test for Anwar to showcase his leadership as well as deal with bread-and-butter issues affecting the nation while carrying out reforms.

Unlike previous two-thirds ruling government, however, he said the current administration is made up of several coalitions and parties.

“It will be a juggling act for the Prime Minister. Having a Prime Minister Question and Time (PMQT) is a good start.

“The Prime Minister will be able to use it to show his sense of leadership to build the trust of the people that he is in charge of the coalition government and the captain of his Cabinet,” he said.

Newly appointed Dewan Rakyat Speaker Datuk Johari Abdul had said that this meeting would see the implementation of the PMQT, similar to that practised in the British Parliament.

Johari said this would allow MPs to hear directly from the Prime Minister on national policies for about an hour.

PMQT sessions will take place every Tuesday before the start of the Oral Question Time while the Minister’s Question Time (MQT) will take place on Thursdays.

On the appointment of the Public Accounts Committee chairman, Johari said the practice of allowing an opposition MP to head the 12-member bipartisan committee would be upheld by the current administration.

So far, several names have been bandied for the post, such as Kota Baru MP Datuk Seri Takiyuddin Hassan, who is a lawyer, and Beluran MP Datuk Ronald Kiandee, who is also a former Dewan Rakyat deputy speaker and who previously headed the PAC between Aug 7, 2018 and April 11, 2019.

Takiyuddin is currently PAS secretary-general while Kiandee is Bersatu vice-president.

The re-tabling of Budget 2023 on Feb 24 is among the highlights of this Parliament meeting, along with the presentation of the Health Ministry’s White Paper on Covid-19 vaccine procurement and several Bills on curbing sexual harassment, anti-stalking and the abolishment of mandatory death penalty.

The MPs are also set to decide on the Batu Puteh issue.

Sivamurugan said there would be emphasis on the re-tabling of Budget 2023 in light of the coming state elections.

“There will be comparisons made on the re-tabled Budget and whether it is better than what was tabled by his predecessor,” he said.

On Oct 7 last year, the former Finance minister Tengku Datuk Seri Zafrul Tengku Abdul Aziz tabled a RM372.3bil Budget for 2023, the largest in the nation’s history.

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