Azmin Ali (Bersatu-Gombak) was positioned as the most senior minister on the government bench in the Dewan Rakyat today.
He was two seats away from Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin. All MPs were separated with a one-seat gap to observe social distancing requirements.
This meant that while the seat reserved for the deputy prime minister was empty, Azmin was the de facto number two to the prime minister.
Further down the government front bench was senior minister (security) and Defence Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob (Umno-Bera), followed by senior minister (works) Fadillah Yusof and Education Minister Senator Radzi Jidin.
This is the closest Azmin has ever been seated to the prime minister’s seat – Seat 1, Block A which is the nearest seat to the right of the speaker.
Dr M in unfamiliar territory
Meanwhile, former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad (Bersatu-Langkawi) was seated on the block furthest from the speaker.
Mahathir sat in Seat 4, Block D behind the sergeant-at-arms.
His opposition “neighbours” were Mohd Shafie Apdal (Warisan-Semporna) and Liew Vui Keong (Warisan-Batu Sapi)
For most of his political career, Mahathir sat in Seat 1, Block A which is now occupied by his former ally Muhyiddin (Bersatu-Pagoh).
With him on the opposition bench were four other Bersatu MPs – Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman (Muar), Maszlee Malik (Simpang Renggam), Mukhriz Mahathir (Jerlun) and Amiruddin Hamzah (Kubang Pasu).
Sri Aman joins government
Meanwhile, Masir Kujat (Parti Sarawak Bersatu-Sri Aman) was seated on the government bench.
Previously, Masir had supported Mahathir as prime minister. It is not known when he switched allegiance.
The Dewan Rakyat seating plan also indicated that there was only one independent – Baru Bian (Selangau).
The seating plan also stated that the total number of government MPs stood at 114.
Zahid and Hadi sat at the back
Social distancing requirements meant that not all MPs could sit on the Dewan Rakyat floor. Half of them were in the public gallery.
The government bench comprised cabinet ministers and their deputies, along with a handful of senators.
This meant that the convention of placing top party officials on the front bench could not be observed.
Prominent party figures without government positions such as Umno president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi (Bagan Datuk) and PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang (Marang) had to sit in the observers’ gallery.
Conversely, the front bench on the opposition side saw Anwar Ibrahim (PKR-Port Dickson) on the opposition leader’s seat, followed by Mohamad Sabu (Amanah-Kota Raja), Lim Guan Eng (DAP-Bagan), Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail (PKR-Pandan), Lim Kit Siang (DAP-Iskandar Puteri), Mujahid Yusof Rawa (Amanah-Parit Buntar) and Mahathir. – Malaysiakini