Muhyiddin says he is still PM, will prove majority in September

Umno challenges the govt to call for a special Parliament sitting immediately to prove that the PM still has majority support

by AFIQ AZIZ & SHAHEERA AZNAM SHAH / pic credit : Istana Negara

TAN Sri Muhyiddin Yassin (picture; right) declared yesterday that he is still prime minister (PM) with majority support in Parliament and will prove it via a vote of confidence in September.

Speaking after meeting with the King, Muhyiddin said he presented proof of support via statutory declarations (SDs) from MPs that countered the withdrawal of support from Umno for the current government.

Muhyiddin is resisting calls by the Opposition and Umno for him to step down as they claimed the numbers showed his government had collapsed when Umno rescinded its support for the Perikatan Nasional (PN) administration.

“I have informed His Royal Highness that I have received several declaration letters from the members of the Dewan Rakyat — which convinced me that I still have the confidence of the majority of the house at this moment.

“As such, my resignation under Article 43 (4) of the Federal Constitution is non-consequential,” he said in a media announcement.

Muhyiddin said he had a meeting with Yang di-Pertuan Agong Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah (left) at the Palace yesterday, where he was informed that eight Umno MPs were withdrawing their support.

In reaction, Umno president Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said Muhyiddin’s claim of parliamentary majority does not add up.

He said prior to Umno’s withdrawal of support, PN had 114 MPs supporting it and with the eight MPs declaring they no longer supported the coalition, it had collapsed.

Ahmad Zahid said more than eight Umno lawmakers are pulling out from PN.

“Umno challenges the government to call for a special Parliament sitting immediately to prove that the PM still has the majority support without having to wait until the Parliament session in September,” he said in a statement yesterday.

Similarly, Opposition leaders said it is impossible for Muhyiddin to still command majority support in the Dewan Rakyat after a number of government MPs retracted their support on Tuesday.

They demanded for the confidence vote to be brought sooner, exercising the Standing Order 11(3) of the Dewan Rakyat which permits the lower house to convene earlier than scheduled in the matter of public interest.

Taking into consideration the state of the current pandemic, Opposition MPs said it is illogical for a disputed government to delay proving its legitimacy at the Parliament.

“The Opposition MPs agree that a special Parliament session must be held as soon as possible, not later than Aug 9, to table and debate the motion of confidence vote against the PM.

“We cannot accept the intention to delay this matter until September. We are of the view that the confidence vote must be presented, discussed and decided once and for all on the legitimacy of the PM,” the Opposition bloc said in a joint statement with United Progressive Kinabalu Organisation, Parti Warisan Sabah, Parti Pejuang Tanah Air, Parti Sarawak Bersatu, Malaysian United Democratic Alliance and independent MP Dr Maszlee Malik.

Umno’s stance has resulted in several of its members vacating their appointments in the government or government-linked companies.

Lenggong MP Datuk Seri Dr Shamsul Anuar Nasarah resigned his post as energy and natural resources minister in line with the party’s position.

Umno VP Datuk Seri Mohamed Khaled Nordin has also tendered his resignation as chairman of Boustead Holding Bhd, while the media reported that Pengerang MP Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said will step down from the Dewan Rakyat deputy speaker post.

However, newly appointed deputy PM Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob, also an Umno VP, reaffirmed last week that there are more than 110 Dewan Rakyat members who still support Muhyiddin. Currently, Umno has 38 members in the lower house.

Previously, there were 25 no-confidence motions submitted by Parti Amanah Negara, Warisan, Pejuang, DAP and PKR.

Lawyer GK Ganesan said it is unconstitutional to give Muhyiddin time to prove his support. He also is of the opinion that the support of confidence can be proved outside the lower house.

“Based on precedent, the removal of the PM can be determined in three ways, a confidence motion in Parliament, the PM himself stepping down when becomes aware he has lost the majority — like what Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad did in February 2020 — or whenever the King (decides) if he becomes reliably informed that the incumbent PM has lost command the majority like letters or SDs addressed to him by MPs, or their public announcements or press conferences,” Ganesan told The Malaysian Reserve (TMR).

He said the principle that a loss of majority can be inferred from several sources, not only a legislative vote, was derived from the 1963 Privy Council case of Adegbenro versus Akintola.

Universiti Teknologi Malaysia senior lecturer (political study) Dr Mazlan Ali described the King’s agreement for the Parliament voting in September as indicating that the political deadlock would only be solved in the Parliament and nowhere else.

“Theoretically, Muhyiddin does not enjoy the majority support anymore, but perhaps because the number is (continuously) unclear and vague, so the King agreed that the motion must be tabled during the motion in the Parliament,” Mazlan told TMR.

He believes Muhyiddin will have enough time to renegotiate with the Opposition bloc during the one-month period.

Jeffrey Sachs Centre on Sustainable Development political scientist Prof Wong Chin Huat predicts the Umno’s “rebel sentiment” will be engaged to pressure Umno MPs who are still supporting Muhyiddin.

“It is unlikely Umno leaders who have gone all out would allow Muhyiddin to have his sweet time of a month to build back a coalition and let themselves condemned to the political wilderness.”

He predicts four outcomes of the current deadlock — status quo; Muhyiddin’s steps down in favour of Ismail Sabri in exchange for a near status quo; formation of a new government with Umno rebels playing dominant roles and Muhyiddin-loyalists sidelined; or Muhyiddin staying on as a minority government after losing the confidence vote.