Budget Vote: Anwar Opted Not to Show Numbers After Umno Rebels Toed the Line

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The opposition decided not to reveal its numbers in the Dewan Rakyat today after a group of Umno MPs decided not to derail the Budget 2021 during the first of a series of votes.

Bernama

While opposition lawmakers expressed their objection to the budget through a voice vote, they, however, did not seek a bloc vote which would require those votes to be counted.

This would have revealed the exact number of MPs supporting Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin.

However, if the opposition fell short during a bloc vote, it would show that Muhyiddin commanded a majority, thereby legitimising him as the prime minister.

MPs who spoke to Malaysiakini on condition of anonymity said they were instructed by opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, at the eleventh hour, not to request a bloc vote.

This is after Anwar purportedly received indication from Umno rebels that they would not oppose the budget at this stage.

At present, there are 112 MPs on the government side and 108 on the opposition bench. So far, only Umno’s Gua Musang MP Tengku Razaleigh Tengku Hamzah has indicated that he would not support the budget.

The group of rebel Umno MPs kept their position vague in the lead up to the vote and demanded several changes to the fiscal document.

Finance Minister Tengku Zafrul Tengku Abdul Aziz, in his winding-up speech, conceded to some of their demands, including expanding the Employee Provident Fund (EPF) withdrawal to a larger pool of contributors.

The decision not to have a bloc vote might have been a procedural strategy based on the fact that the opposition would not win, but not all opposition MPs agreed with the move.

Several Amanah MPs broke ranks with Pakatan Harapan to support a bloc vote. The call for the bloc vote itself was initiated by Mahfuz Omar (Amanah-Pokok Sena).

He was backed by most of his party colleagues and also Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s (Independent-Langkawi) group, which is in the midst of registering their new Parti Pejuang Tanah Air.

Joining them were Hassan Karim (PKR-Pasir Gudang), who is known for his maverick position, and Baru Bian (PSB-Selangau).

However, their numbers only totalled 13, which fell short of the 15 MPs needed to initiate a bloc vote.

So far, Malaysiakini has identified 11 out of the 13 MPs who stood up to support Mahfuz’s request for bloc voting.

Others who supported the move were Khalid Samad (Amanah-Shah Alam), Dr Hatta Ramli (Amanah-Lumut), Hasanuddin Mohd Yunus (Amanah-Hulu Langat), Dzulkefly Ahmad (Amanah-Kuala Selangor), Shahruddin Md Salleh (Independent-Sri Gading), Amiruddin Hamzah (Independent-Kubang Pasu) and Mukhriz Mahathir (Independent-Jerlun).

In a tweet later, Mukhriz said: “Biar mati berdiri, dari hidup melutut (Better to die standing than to live on your knees).”

Earlier, BN secretary-general Annuar Musa tweeted, “…the opposition’s attempt to initiate a bloc vote was defeated by the opposition itself.”

Malaysiakini is attempting to identify the other supporters of the bloc vote. Malaysiakini was not among the media organisations allowed into Parliament to cover the proceedings.

However, from various video feeds and checks with MPs, it was clear that DAP and PKR MPs did not support Mahfuz’s request despite MPs from both parties vigorously participating in the debate before the vote was called.

Since September, Anwar has been claiming that he has secured majority support of the MPs and even declared that Muhyiddin’s government has collapsed.

The opposition leader even presented his claims to the Yang di-Pertuan Agong on Oct 13.

Anwar did not interject when Finance Minister Zafrul delivered his winding-up speech this afternoon.

Contacted after the vote, several PKR and DAP MPs refused to explain why they did not support a fellow Harapan MP’s request for a bloc vote.

“You ask Port Dickson (Anwar),” one MP told Malaysiakini. Several other opposition MPs who did not back Mahfuz’s request expressed similar sentiments.

Abdullah Sani Abdul Hamid (PKR-Kapar) appeared to have initially stood up to support Mahfuz, but sat down moments later after realising that most of the other Harapan MPs remained seated.

Some Harapan MPs are having to deal with the fallout with supporters who demanded answers.

For instance, both Bandar Kuching MP Dr Kelvin Yii and Batu Kawan MP Kasthuri Patto took to social media to state their objections to the budget.

Yii pointed out that the passage of the bill has yet to conclude.

“Bandar Kuching does not support this budget and will be prepared to debate it more in the committee stage,” he wrote on his Facebook page.

The MPs would still have numerous opportunities to call for a bloc vote to test Muhyiddin’s majority as the Supply (Budget) Bill 2021 will still have to go through a second (committee stage) and third reading.

It remains to be seen if Anwar can muster the numbers to defeat Budget 2021 during the committee stage.

This is necessary to prove his claim that Muhyiddin has lost majority support in the Dewan Rakyat as according to Westminster convention, the budget also acts as a proxy confidence vote. – Malaysiakini