Will Perak trigger a political spillover?

Now that Perak menteri besar Datuk Seri Ahmad Faizal Azumu has lost the motion of confidence vote in the state assembly, who will be the new MB? And which party will helm the new state government?

By convention a menteri besar (and even prime minister for that matter) who has lost a confidence motion (what more a no-confidence one) will have to resign, resulting in the collapse of his government.

In conceding defeat, Ahmad Faizal has promised a smooth transition. According to Perak opposition leader, DAP’s Dr Aziz Bari, who is also a law expert, “Even though the administration has fallen, it can still function as a caretaker government, and I believe the Perak Sultan will take this matter into consideration.”

Ahmad Faizal Azumu (centre) has a word with Perak Speaker Mohammad Zahir Abdul Khalid (right) before the results of the confidence motion are announced in the Perak state legislative assembly today. Photo: Bernama

The next few days will see meetings, discussions and negotiations.

In the 59-seat state assembly, 25 representatives are from Umno, 16 from DAP, five from Bersatu, five from Amanah, three each from PKR and PAS, one from Gerakan, and one independent.

The Gerakan seat is for Buntong held by A. Sivasumbramnai who defected from DAP. The independent assemblyman is Yong Choo Kiong, also a former DAP man. He holds the seat for Tronoh. Both are Perikatan Nasional/Bersatu- friendly. Incidentally, out of the five Bersatu representatives, two crossed over from Umno.

30 seats are needed for a simple majority to form the state government.

It’s no secret that Umno is at loggerheads (to put it mildly) with Bersatu at state (as well federal) level.

And when Umno assemblyman Datuk Abdul Manaf Hashim moved the motion of confidence for Ahmad Faizal, the immediate thinking then was Umno wanted to topple the menteri besar, who is Bersatu deputy president.

What more the motion was accepted by Speaker Mohamad Zahir Abdul Kadir. For the record, Zahir is from Umno. 

A confidence motion, as law experts tells us, is the same as a no-confidence motion. Both put the menteri besar to a test in the assembly, and both motions can result in the MB being ousted.

Although a confidence motion seeks to show support, it can be detrimental as in the case of Ahmad Faizal. It is said that Umno knew very well he would not win the motion.

But whatever it is, we have now a situation where Umno is short of only five seats to from the state government with a simple majority. The question is, where will the crucial seats come from?

Will Umno work with Pakatan Harapan? DAP, PKR and Amanah have a combined seats of 24.

PAS is working with Bersatu, obviously comfortable in Perikatan Nasional.

For the confidence motion, PAS voted in support. Taking that into perspective, it can be seen that PAS has broken ranks with Umno, at least at the state level. Muafakat Nasional could have been severed In Perak. Is that the situation?

Outgoing Perak Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Ahmad Faizal Azumu speaks to reporters during a press conference at the State Secretariat Building in Ipoh December 4, 2020. — Picture by Farhan Najib MALAY MAIL

Umno has managed to oust Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin’s No. 2 man. Will this have a big effect on Bersatu-Umno ties at national level? Can this be seen as the start of an Umno mutiny against Bersatu/Perikatan Nasional? Is Umno president Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi “at work”? Taking into account Perak is his home state, could Zahid be telling Muhyiddin, “If we can do it in Perak, we can do it in Putrajaya, too”?

In a nutshell, the events in Perak could very well signal important changes, i.e. Umno-Bersatu split at state level, and new cooperation between Umno and Pakatan Harapan parties.

Still, Umno is expected to helm the new government. Two names are being floated. One is Datuk Seri Zambry Abdul Khalid, himself Perak MB before BN lost GE14. The other name is Datuk Saarani Mohamad, the current state Umno chief.

But now, Ahmad Faisal is singing a different tune. Malay Mail Online quoted him as saying there will not be a transition government but rather a change in menteri besar only. Another report has him hinting of a PAS-Umno-Bersatu set up.

That remains to be natural. We will just have to see how and what pans out.

Bear in mind that PAS secretary-general Datuk Takiyuddin Hassan is on record saying PAS has decided not to join efforts to form a new Perak state government. He went on to say that this was the decision of the party’s central leadership following Ahmad Faisal’s ouster.

Therefore, a big question being asked is, will what has taken place in Perak spill over to other states, in particular Johor and Melaka, where ties between Umno and Bersatu are, to say the least, strained?

And a bigger question is, as said earlier, will all this have an impact on Putrajaya? In short, is something about to happen at the federal level?

Umno and DAP leaders are now saying it’s time for a vote on the prime minister.

A vote of confidence, they say, would lay to rest any questions on the support the PM has and the legitimacy of the Perikatan Nasional government.

Mohamed Nazri, Umno leader and MP for Padang Rengas (incidentally a constituency in Perak) is quoted by MalaysiaKini as saying, “Once and for all, we can settle this.”

At least 25 opposition MPS have submitted a no-confidence motion against Muhyiddin while two MPS (from Umno and PAS) have submitted confidence motion.

Speaker Datuk Azhar Harun has always maintained that in accordance with parliamentary procedures, government business matters shall take precedence over other matters.

Motions of no-confidence and confidence, obviously, fall under “other matters”.

But in the Perak assembly where the speaker is also governed by the same procedures, the speaker allowed the confidence motion to be fast tracked, resulting it to take precedence over government business, albeit a very important one, i.e. tabling of the state budget for 2021.

So, DAP’s Teluk Intan MP Nga Kor Ming is asking, “If Perak can do it, why not parliament?”

To ask it in a classic Malaysian styled poser: If Perak boleh, why parliament tak boleh?

By : Mohsin Abdullah (Veteran journalist) – SIN CHEW DAILY

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