Confidence vote on Sept 7

Anything is still possible in politics, says Minister Saifuddin on the possibility of an earlier date


PRIME Minister (PM) Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin spent yesterday in Johor attending the State Assembly, representing his state constituency of Bukit Gambir, even as his ruling administration’s legitimacy is being questioned in Kuala Lumpur.

The Johor assembly is the first to convene among the states since the Covid-19 pandemic forced the closure of all state assemblies and Parliament in February last year.

His attendance in Johor comes after a hectic Wednesday when the King brought up Article 43 of the Federal Constitution during a routine pre-Cabinet meeting, which contains language that the PM should step down if he no longer commands a majority in Parliament.

It is understood that the Palace had instructed Speaker Datuk Azhar Azizan Harun to report on support for Muhyiddin’s Perikatan Nasional (PN) government after a significant number of Umno MPs publicly said they no longer supported the administration last week.

It is also understood that the Palace wishes to have the question of majority be resolved sooner than September, when Muhyiddin has pledged to hold a confidence vote.

Yesterday, Communications and Multimedia Minister Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah said Parliament will resume on Sept 6, while the confidence vote on PM will be held the day after.

He said the Dewan Rakyat Speaker has issued a notice on the date for the confidence vote, which is fixed on Sept 7, 2021, and no definite plans were made during the Cabinet meeting on Wednesday to hold the Parliament session earlier.

Saifuddin, however, said “anything is still possible” when pressed whether the Cabinet meeting had discussed convening Parliament earlier to hold the confidence vote.

“The definite date as of now is Sept 7, but anything is possible in politics. I think Muhyiddin takes cognisance of the importance of the vote and he understands there are people who want this to be organised earlier.

“But all I am saying is, for now it will be on Sept 7, as per the notice issued by the Dewan Rakyat Speaker,” he said during a virtual media briefing after a meeting with CyberSecurity Malaysia yesterday.

“On the confidence vote, I am sure he would not hesitate if it is required that the motion be passed in Parliament earlier. This is not something I heard from him, but similar to his willingness to have the GE (general election) as soon as possible, I would interpret he is willing to do the confidence vote earlier than September if required,” Saifuddin added.

Muhyiddin, however, stated that he still commands the majority which will be proven in the next Parliament sitting via a confidence vote. He had previously claimed he had the support of 114 lawmakers out of the 222 seats in the August House.

Besides the Cabinet meeting on Wednesday, Muhyiddin had also called for a meeting with PN party leaders after the pre-Cabinet audience with Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah.

Despite not attending the meeting, Saifuddin said he was informed that the parties that make up the PN government are committed to supporting Muhyiddin as the PM.

“From what I understand and was informed, all parties under the PN will continue to give their support to Muhyiddin as PM,” he said during a virtual media briefing yesterday.

The minister noted he did not attend the meeting because he is not in the party’s leadership council.

A special Parliamentary sitting was held on July 26 and was supposed to run for five days, but it was cut short by a day after Covid-19 cases were detected at the Parliament building on July 29.

A total of 97 cases have been linked to the cluster, with one death as of Aug 10.

Saifuddin said Dewan Rakyat secretary Nizam Mydin Bacha Mydin had distributed the notice to all MPs on the confidence vote and that the manner of its implementation is still being discussed.

“At the moment, we are still discussing whether the motion should be tabled by the Deputy PM Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob or by another minister,” he said.

The Dewan Rakyat is expected to meet for a full sitting from Sept 6 to Sept 30, with the King scheduled for the customary royal opening address on the first day.

Universiti Teknologi Malaysia senior lecturer (political study) Dr Mazlan Ali said the King is empowered to determine if the PM has a majority, thus pressuring Muhyiddin to prove his total support from the MPs.

“Using the example of the Perak constitutional crisis in 2009, where Perak Ruler Sultan Azlan Shah rejected the then Perak MB Datuk Mohammad Nizar Jamaluddin as the Sultan believed Mohammad Nizar has lost majority support.

“Applying that to this political development, if Yang di-Pertuan Agong believes Muhyiddin no longer holds the majority, he can instruct for a change in the premiership and ignore the PM’s advice,” he told The Malaysian Reserve.

On the numbers of statutory declarations (SDs) presented to the King by Umno president Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, Mazlan said although the declaration gives a good indication of who holds the majority, its authenticity must be proven through the conventional channel.

“We see from SDs provided by Umno that the Opposition bloc holds the majority now. But there has been hesitation over overlapping signatures, which I think makes the King push for an early Parliament sitting,” he said.