Malaysia Game of Thrones: Umno playing politics while the nation suffers!

WHILE our frontliners are working very hard to prevent the collapse of the healthcare system in Selangor, Kuala Lumpur and Negeri Sembilan in light of the increasing number of COVID-19 infections, Umno is working hard to ensure the collapse of the Perikatan Nasional (Perikatan) Government helmed by Prime Minister Tan Sri Mahiaddin Yassin.

In early January, the Government had a majority of 112 over the Opposition’s 108 – the total comes up to 220 seats, instead of 222, because of the death of two MPs.

There are a total of 222 seats in the Dewan Rakyat, making 111 as the number that denotes a hung Parliament. Any political party or coalition that garners more than 111 seats forms a majority Government even if the majority is of one seat.

Similarly, a minority Government of less than 111 seats is a possibility although Malaysia has never experienced a situation where the ruling coalition has less than 111 seats.

In early January, two Umno MPs – Datuk Ahmad Jazlan Yaacob and Datuk Seri Mohamed Nazri Abdul Aziz withdrew their support for the Government, reducing its majority to a tie 110 vs 110, making the Government for the first time, a minority one.

However, this did not last long when a few months later, three Opposition MPs – Datuk Dr Xavier Jayakumar, Steven Choong and Larry S’ng – crossed over to become Independents friendly to Perikatan, changing the tally to 113 vs 107 for the Government, a majority of two seats set against the benchmark of a hung parliament (111 seats).

And just a few weeks ago, with Nazri back to supporting Perikatan, the tally is now 114 vs 106 – a majority of three seats set against a hung Parliament, and a majority of eight seats over the Opposition.

Malaysia is now bracing for political uncertainties with the announcement of Umno president Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi on July 7, following a meeting of its supreme council, that his party will pull out from the Government with immediate effect.

This is more a sign of Umno’s downward path to oblivion rather than the collapse of Perikatan because of the so many confusions arising from Zahid speech.

In the first place, he did not make it clear whether this pull out includes Umno’s MPs because it is their parliamentarians, not its supreme council, that is crucial for the collapse of the Government.

And all 38 Umno MPs were reported to have issued a statements supporting the Government, which was pooh-poohed by former Umno president Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak.

Photo credit: Borneo Post Online

He could be right because among Umno MPs, there is a group – the so-called “court cluster” – facing trial on corruption charges, including Najib and Zahid, who would not support the Government.

A divided Umno

And it did not help when Najib explained it away the day after Zahid’s midnight speech that Umno is not against the Government but only against the prime minister, and so the rationale for Zahid’s call for Mahiaddin to resign to make way for an interim premier in his speech.

However, an interim prime minister as opposed to a caretaker premier is something not provided for in the Federal Constitution. It came into being when former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad willingly resigned in February last year and refused to reconsider his decision, despite the Agong’s advice not to resign, and was appointed in the interim.

Will Mahiaddin resign willingly to make way for an interim prime minister? Even if he does, just like Mahathir, he could be appointed again as the interim leader. It is all up to the Agong, not Zahid or Najib.

The question now is when the daily infection number is on the rise and the rakyat are deeply affected by the pandemic, with more losing jobs causing both the crime and suicide rates to go north – a fact recognised by Zahid in his speech – is it worth the effort to collapse the Government or change the prime minister?

The Agong has called for the Parliament to be convened as soon as possible so that the Emergency Ordinances and the National Recovery Plan can be debated among MPs in the fight against the virus.

Instead of preparing this, the Umno leadership is aimed at collapsing the Government or demanding Mahiaddin’s resignation, which is the same as calling for the collapse of the Government despite the “acrobatic semantics” of Najib.

And the Pakatan Harapan presidential council too in calling for the resignation of Mahiaddin is falling into the same trap as Umno, despite veteran DAP leader Lim Kit Siang having time and again reassured Mahiaddin that a vote of confidence would not be held should Parliament convene.

With a majority of eight over the Opposition, his Government can be brought down when nine Umno MPs withdraw their support. Currently we have one Umno MPs – Ahmad Jazlan – who has withdrawn support. So, Umno needs eight more MPs to withdraw support.

We can count on the certainty of Umno veteran Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah and the three members of Umno’s court cluster – Zahid, Najib and Datuk Seri Ahmad Maslan – to withdraw support, but still there is a need for another four in order to engineer the collapse.

Assuming it is a breeze to get these four – so there you go a total of nine that will bring down the Government. But will the Government be brought down immediately?

Mahiaddin aces in every direction

Obviously no, because it would just mean that the prime minister has to seek an audience with the Agong to explain that he has lost the majority.

There are two scenarios here, assuming dissolution of Parliament is not an option because of the pandemic, and it all depends on the Agong to:

  • His Majesty agrees with the prime minister and by convention, appoint him as a caretaker premier, while the Agong decides on who among the MPs has the majority to become the new prime minister;
  • The Agong is not satisfied with the prime minister’s explanation that he has lost the majority, and will thereby seek to ascertain for himself that Mahiaddin has lost the majority. Only when the Agong is satisfied, will the collapse of the Government become official. In that event, the Agong will nevertheless appoint Mahiaddin as the caretaker prime minister by convention, while he will seek to ascertain for himself who among the MPs has the majority.

And the big question then is who among the MPs will have a majority? When it is nine Umno MPs who brought down the Government, the tally will be 105 votes for Mahiaddin. The nearest MP after him with substantial vote is, PKR president Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim with 88 votes.

Anwar may face bigger hurdles in raising the “strong, formidable and convincing” number, especially when Zahid declared he will not support The Port Dickson MP, DAP and Pakatan. Such bravado means nothing if suddenly the political ambition or end goal far overwhelmed principles.

But Mahiaddin’s tally can go down if more Umno MPs withdraw their support. The only way for his support to go down below Anwar’s 88 is when 18 more Umno MPs – giving a total of 27 Umno MPs – withdraw their support for the former.

As the above possibility is very remote, Mahiaddin will end up being prime minister again, this time being a leader of a minority Government.

So why bother to go through all the above when Mahiaddin will likely retain his post, and when the effect of this process will only bring political instability to the country?

The rakyat really do not give a hoot whether the Government will collapse or Anwar becomes the prime minister. All they want is the return to normalcy with the pandemic being transformed into an endemic virus, like the common cold, where we can afford to coexist with it without a staggering loss of lives. Let us all help the rakyat to achieve this.

By : Jamari Mohtar (Director, Media & Communications at EMIR Research) -FOCUS MALAYSIA

* This is the opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of The Stringer.

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