PM faces support test as Parliament returns


PRIME Minister (PM) Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin will be forced to confront mounting pressure against his leadership this week as Parliament convenes for the first time since August.

Today’s order paper showed that a record 25 MPs had filed for a no-confidence motion against the PM amid a challenge for the premiership by Opposition leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim.

Mixed signals from within the ruling coalition further raised doubts on Muhyiddin’s grip on power. However, as government business will take precedence, the focus will be on Budget 2021.

Muhyiddin’s failed bid to declare a state of emergency has led to urgent calls for a political ceasefire and for bipartisan support to pass the national budget, failure of which could result in the collapse of the nine-month-old Perikatan Nasional (PN) government.

In a televised address on Saturday, the PM urged all lawmakers to set aside their differences and called for approval of the federal budget amid a resurgence in Covid-19 infections.

The last sitting saw Muhyiddin succeed in unseating Dewan Rakyat Speaker Tan Sri Mohamad Ariff Md Yusof by just two votes, with one member absent while another abstained.

The upcoming budget, scheduled for Nov 6, will be the next crucial test of support for the Pagoh MP.

Rising tensions between Muhyiddin’s Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia and Umno, the largest party in the ruling bloc, have sparked talks of a Cabinet reshuffle that would see Umno leaders holding more prominent positions, including the role of deputy PM.

Umno president Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, who is facing 47 charges of corruption, had previously said the party would set new terms in exchange for its continued support for the PN government. Umno holds 39 out of the 222 seats in Parliament, while Bersatu has 31 seats.

Muhyiddin has bypassed Umno on many occasions in favour of his own supporters. The latest blow to Umno was the appointment of Datuk Seri Hajiji Mohd Noor as Sabah chief minister.

Another option for Muhyiddin is to have a “confidence and supply agreement” with the Pakatan Harapan coalition, which has a total of 91 seats. Support from at least 40 Opposition MPs would cause Umno to lose its influence and empower the Opposition instead.

Several Opposition leaders, including Anwar, have said they are willing to work with Muhyiddin to support the 2021 budget upon formal discussions with the PM.

Finance Minister Tengku Datuk Seri Zafrul Tengku Abdul Aziz had reached out to key Opposition MPs over the weekend to appease the pressure. Whether the last-ditch attempt would translate into votes for the supply bill remains to be seen until the day arrives in about six weeks.

Until then, the long days and late nights of bitter horse trading is expected to likely continue.