Muhyiddin Yassin cannot form a minority government without the Dewan Rakyat first deciding which MP has the confidence of the majority of lawmakers to be prime minister, Dewan Rakyat Deputy Speaker Azalina Othman Said said today.
She was addressing rumours that Muhyiddin might be delaying a vote of confidence so as to garner support from the opposition through a confidence and supply agreement (CSA) and form a minority government to replace the Perikatan Nasional (PN) government. The rumours started after 15 Umno MPs pulled their support, leaving Muhyiddin without majority support.
“Can (Muhyiddin) seek the Yang di-Pertuan Agong’s permission to form a minority government? The short answer is ’no’. Not for now, not before (Muhyiddin) resigns, and not before the possibility of another or a new majority block.
“If there is a new majority block, it must be allowed to present an MP who commands the majority. In other words, such representation must come from the floor, that is from the MPs to the king, and not the other way around,” Azalina wrote in a post on social media.
She added that if no MP commands the majority, only then can the king use his discretion as a constitutional monarch to invite the former prime minister to offer himself as a minority government with CSA.
“Since the federal constitution is silent on the option of a minority government, let’s not be over-hasty!” Azalina, who is Pengerang MP, said.
She also highlighted the fact that in the Westminster system, which the Malaysian Parliament is modelled on, the constitutional monarch does not have a role in forming the government, nor to facilitation negotiations on such a matter.
“The Agong’s duty is to accept whoever can command the majority to his satisfaction,” Azalina said.
Minority governments, she said, are typically formed after a general election, and are conditional upon signing of a CSA.
“It is an option available for a formation of a government when no one political party can rule as a majority party.
“A minority government leader will not have the ability to govern like a majority government, as he will lack the capacity to pass laws and bring policy changes according to his ‘whims and fancies’ without the security of majority votes.”
As such, a minority government can also raise more “headaches”, as CSAs only assure support for important motions such as the annual budget or specific legislation.
“Bilateral deals and crossing of floors will continuously occur as MPs can choose to be a temporary ally (by accepting a CSA) or opponent (by refusing a CSA), and then swap votes.
“This can go on and on and on and on. Who then will bear the brunt of this mess or have the biggest headache? Civil servants! Who then will suffer due to constant uncertainties? Civil societies and the people!”
Azalina said Muhyiddin and the PN government might not be in the current situation had there been a written agreement between all component parties of the government.
“A minority government is vastly different from a coalition government, where political parties agree to form a government from the onset based on shared policies and agendas. With a coalition government, there is a greater demand for a strict interpretation of coalition partners’ expectations, set in a written agreement that includes terms for entry, exit, and procedures for conflict resolution.
“Unfortunately, (Muhyiddin’s) government never entered into such a written agreement with its component political party partners. Otherwise, the political chaos that we are experiencing today could have been averted,” she said.
Azalina said that in dealing with the current political crisis must, there must be checks and balances and the separation of powers.
“We are in uncharted waters and therefore, how this matter is dealt with is of utmost importance to us as a nation. Precedents will be set that will mark our history in upholding our constitutional and parliamentary democracy.”
Earlier, Azalina questioned her parliamentary colleague Mohd Rashid Hasnon on a letter from the palace, reminding him they both received copies of it.
The letter from the Palace, dated August 9, was addressed to Dewan Rakyat Speaker Azhar Azizan Harun to confirm the number of MPs who still supported Muhyiddin Yassin as prime minister.
Rashid was yesterday quoted saying he was unaware of the letter.
However, in a tweet last night, Azalina said copies of the letter were sent to her and Rashid.
“Surat bertarikh 9 Ogos, 2021, salinannya kepada kita berdua, dah baca ke belum @rashidjohor? (The letter dated August 9, 2021 was copied to us both, haven’t you read it?” she said on Twitter last night.
Several reports stated that Comptroller of the Royal Household Ahmad Fadhli Shamsuddin had sent a letter on August 9 asking Azhar to confirm the support for Muhyiddin.
While claiming ignorance of the letter, Rashid also expressed surprise at the reports claiming that the king had served a letter to the speaker’s office seeking clarification on Muhyiddin’s support.
“There has not been any precedent where the Agong would directly communicate with the speaker on parliamentary affairs,” Rashid was quoted saying.
“That is why I have to ask about this report claiming as such, because how can His Majesty direct his questions to the Yang di-Pertua (speaker).
“According to procedure, when Parliament is in session, whatever happens inside the Dewan, the leader of the House (the prime minister) will report to the Agong himself, including on his majority support.”
Azalina, however, pointed out that she, Rashid and Azhar had a meeting with the king on June 29, and attached a photo from that meeting in her tweet.
“YB, didn’t we meet the Yang di-Pertuan Agong in a group on June 29?” she said.
It was reported that the king had called for meetings with the speaker and the two deputy speakers, as well as the Dewan Negara president and deputy president, on June 29.
This was followed by a statement from the palace on the same day, reiterating a call for Parliament to reconvene “as soon as possible”.