Muhyiddin safe for now, but keris remains drawn

So, Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin can sigh with relief – at least for now. Budget 2021 was passed by the Dewan Rakyat at its third and final reading this evening by a very slim majority of three votes.

Most Malaysians were glued to news channels and portals, excitedly awaiting the outcome of the bloc voting, especially since there had been talk that the budget would be voted down and that the government could, therefore, fall.

This expectation gained currency after former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad and Umno stalwart Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah teamed up to call for a vote against the budget, and after the opposition said it would vote down the budget.

However, the 2021 budget  was passed with 111 ayes and 108 nays, with one MP abstaining — which happened to be Razaleigh.

Despite warnings, pundits say Budget 2021 likely to pass as MPs ...

Although the house has 222 MPs, two have died — Liew Vui Keong of Warisan and Hasbullah Osman of Barisan Nasional.

It’s more than interesting that three MPs who were supposed to be under quarantine for Covid-19 — Health Minister Dr Adham Baba, Human Resources Minister M Saravanan and P Prabakaran of Pakatan Harapan — decked in personal protective equipment voted on the budget. That’s a first in Malaysia, and maybe elsewhere too.

They were allowed to attend Parliament and vote, despite protests from the opposition, because every vote counted — especially for Muhyiddin, who has been under siege from day one.

If the budget had failed to get approval, it would have meant that Muhyiddin did not command majority support. Some were hoping that this would then force him to resign, opening up an opportunity for someone else, possibly Anwar Ibrahim, to take over or for a snap general election.

The RM322.5 billion budget, which was tabled on Nov 6, is the largest in Malaysian history. It is largely targeted at reducing the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and reviving the economy.

However, it became a weapon in the convoluted, backstabbing arena of Malaysian politics.

The opposition is desperately trying to unseat a government which it, and many Malaysians, see as a “backdoor government”.

Umno advisory board chairman Razaleigh yesterday described the ruling Perikatan Nasional as not a legitimate government and Muhyiddin as “not a legitimate prime minister”.

That Razaleigh joined Mahathir — his rival of more than 30 years — at a press conference to call on MPs to vote according to their conscience and across party lines speaks volumes about his dislike for the present government or Muhyiddin, despite the fact that Umno supports the PN government and some Umno members are ministers.

Razaleigh and Mahathir were obviously hoping that some Umno MPs would abstain from voting, as the former did, but that did not happen.

Now it’s back to the cloak-and-dagger game that started just before the toppling of the Pakatan Harapan government by Muhyiddin and his group of merry men.

The PN government is still on very thin ice, more so now, after the power play that led to a new menteri besar in Perak. Ahmad Faizal Azumu of PPBM is out as menteri besar and Shaarani Mohamad of Umno is in.

Do you expect PPBM to take it lying down?

It is clear that Muhyiddin’s PPBM does not trust Umno. And Umno, for its part, does not trust PPBM. They will try to outmanoeuvre each other, outstab each other, until the next general election.

Umno will also not trust another PN partner — PAS — which is fully backing Muyhiddin for fear of losing its position in government. PAS too will be wary of Umno, despite their Muafakat Nasional tie-up.

Opposition leader Anwar is not giving up on his dream of becoming prime minister and Mahathir is not giving up on unseating Muhyiddin.

Since canny Muhyiddin is not taking any chance with a confidence or no-confidence vote, and since the speaker of the Dewan Rakyat — chosen by Muhyiddin — is not giving priority for the no-confidence motions filed by opposition MPs to be debated, Anwar, Mahathir and the others will look to other means of unseating Muhyiddin.

So, while Muhyiddin can let out a sigh of relief, he should know that the keris will not be sheathed so soon.

By : A. Kathirasen – FMT

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