POLITICALLY, all eyes are on Parliament after the King decreed that it can be convened during the current state of emergency.
“Now politics in Malaysia will be redirected towards Parliament. Everyone is looking forward to the sitting of Parliament.
“But what people don’t realise is the timing is really up to the Prime Minister and (Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin) will delay it as long as possible, ” said James Chin, the director of the Asia Institute, University of Tasmania, Australia.
In a statement issued on Wed-nesday, the Comptroller of the Royal Household of Istana Negara, Datuk Ahmad Fadil Shamsuddin, said the King’s view was that Parliament could be convened on a date deemed appropriate by His Majesty, upon the advice of the Prime Minister.
The key word and phrase are “appropriate” and “upon the advice of the Prime Minister”.
“The advice given by the King is very specific. They can reconvene if they want to, but he is not forcing them. Basically, the King is pushing it back to the politicians to decide, and in this case, it is the Prime Minister, ” Chin said.
“Parliament will reconvene, but it will not be at an early date but much later than people expect. Though he will not wait until August to reconvene. And it will probably be for a limited time and under controlled circumstances.”
Universiti Malaya political analyst Muhammad Asri Mohd Ali agreed.
“When the King made the clarification, TSMY (Muhyiddin) has a choice even though he may disagree with (reconvening Parliament during Emergency rule). What he can do is delay the process. The question is, for how long, ” he said.
Universiti Sains Malaysia political analyst Sivamurugan Pandian also noted the “masa yang sesuai” (appropriate time) in the statement.
“We don’t know when is ‘masa yang sesuai’, ” he said. “That is why I think ‘on a date deemed appropriate’ is open for debate. It could be March or even May.”
Sivamurugan pointed out that those pressing for Parliament to reconvene would want it done immediately. Some, he said, were looking forward to raising a vote of no confidence motion.
Three Umno/Barisan Nasional MPs – Gua Musang MP Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah, Machang MP Datuk Seri Ahmad Jazlan Yaakub and Padang Rengas MP Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz – have announced they are withdrawing their support for the Prime Minister.
Currently, the Perikatan Nasional government has 109 MPs – Umno 35, Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia 31, Gabungan Parti Sarawak 18, PAS 18, MCA two, MIC one, Sabah STAR one, Parti Bersatu Rakyat Sabah one, Parti Bersatu Sabah one and Lubok Antu MP Tambat Jugah Muyang.
The Opposition has 108 MPs – Pakatan Harapan 91 (DAP 42, PKR 38 and Amanah 11), Parti Warisan Sabah eight, not-yet-registered Pejuang four, Parti Sarawak Bersatu two, not-yet-registered Muda one, Upko one and Simpang Renggam MP Dr Maszlee Malik.
Neutral – meaning we don’t know if they support the Opposition – are the three Umno MPs who declared they no longer support Muhyiddin.
However, the numbers might change, as there is talk that two or more PKR MPs might join the government. PKR secretary-general Datuk Seri Saifuddin Nasution Ismail gave credence to such speculation when he issued a statement yesterday saying that there have been attempts to lure party MPs to defect.
Chin argued that even if Parliament reconvened, pushing for a no-confidence vote against the Prime Minister would not be easy as the Speaker would have to allow the motion.
“The Opposition will cry out loud that the government has lost its majority. There will be government MPs who will state that they have lost faith in the PM. But unless they make a formal request to sit in the middle of the bench (in Parliament), they will be sitting with the government, ” he said.
“Whatever it is if you want a government to change, you need a vote of no confidence.”
Muhammad Asri contended that a vote of no confidence is unlikely as Dewan Rakyat Speaker Datuk Azhar Azizan Harun had rejected previous requests for the matter to be brought up.
“In that context, TSMY will be saved, unless Barisan dramatically makes a solid decision to pull out of the Perikatan government, ” he said.
According to Chin, apart from whether Parliament will be convened, the key thing is Umno’s 2020 annual general assembly that will be held on March 27 and 28 this year. He said Umno has to decide collectively as a party whether to stay in the Perikatan coalition or to formally leave.
“If they come to a resolution to stay out of the government, they will not move to the Opposition side unless all their MPs in the government resign. They will move to the middle bench if Umno MPs are still serving in the government, ” he said.
“That will be interesting as it will be clear that Perikatan has lost its majority, and the Speaker will be under tremendous pressure to allow a no-confidence vote.”
Overall, Chin said, the pressure is on Muhyiddin to come to a workable solution with Umno so that he survives.
Muhammad Asri said that since Barisan so far has not been able to come up with a future PM candidate, Umno’s Cabinet cluster’s motivation to follow the direction of the party’s court cluster is slim – “Hen-ce the disunity in Barisan will continue, ” he said.
Those in the Umno “kluster mahkamah” (court cases cluster, ie, Umno MPs facing corruption charges in court) and “kluster bukan mahkamah atau Kabinet” (Umno leaders who are not facing court cases and are not in the Cabinet) want to cut ties with Bersatu. In contrast, some in the “kluster Kabinet” (Umno MPs in the Perikatan Cabinet) insist that for the party to win big in GE15, it has to remain with the Perikatan coalition.
Chin observed that Muhyiddin has been very lucky as he has dodged the bullet twice.
“There was no scrutiny of the start of his premiership as Parliament was suspended. And now Parliament is suspended because of the Emergency rule, ” he said.
“The question is whether he will be lucky a third time now.”
When Parliament reconvenes is a matter of speculation as the Perikatan government has been quiet about any dates.