MPs aligned to the country’s three major political blocs held separate meetings today in preparation for the Dewan Rakyat sitting tomorrow, the first full sitting since Perikatan Nasional took over the federal government in March following defections from Pakatan Harapan.
While pre-Parliament meetings are a convention for most political parties, the gatherings today are crucial in anticipation of a possible showdown.
A number of motions from both the government and opposition have been submitted to the Dewan Rakyat to determine whether Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin enjoys majority support but they are unlikely to come up tomorrow as they are placed far down the list in the Order Paper.
Instead, one of the earliest orders of business in the Dewan Rakyat tomorrow will be Muhyiddin’s motion to replace Mohamad Ariff Md Yusof and Nga Kor Ming as the speaker and deputy speaker as both were appointed during the Pakatan Harapan government.
However, the motion to determine the fate of Ariff and Nga may also determine Muhyiddin’s own fate, as it is seen as a proxy confidence vote of the prime minister.
If Muhyiddin fails to rally enough MPs to remove Ariff and Nga, it could reflect on his lack of support in the House. Conversely, if he succeeds, Muhyiddin would be on a stronger footing.
Reportedly, at least four meetings were held by the three blocs today, namely PN, Harapan and a third grouping comprising Parti Warisan Sabah and Bersatu rebels led by Langkawi MP Dr Mahathir Mohamad, which is friendly towards Harapan.
Party sources said that BN, which is part of the PN coalition, met at Putra World Trade Centre at 11am today where component parties comprising Umno MCA, MIC and PBRS conducted a meeting for around three hours.
The meeting was chaired by BN chairperson Ahmad Zahid Hamidi and former prime minister Najib Abdul Razak, who is now the BN advisory board chairperson, was also present, according to photographs shared on social media.
The BN meeting concluded at around 1pm, after which they proceeded to Puspanitapuri building in Putrajaya to join other PN MPs from PAS, Bersatu, GPS, PBS, STAR and former PKR deputy president Azmin Ali’s G10.
According to the PN meeting schedule, MPs there were to start at 3pm with speeches from Muhyiddin and Azmin, who is the PN government whip.
Journalists were not allowed into the building and asked to wait outside.
Among the notable figures at the venue included Najib (Pekan), Defence Minister Ismail Sabri (Bera), Foreign Minister Hishammuddin Hussein (Sembrong), Umno secretary-general Ahmad Maslan (Pontian) and PAS’ Jerai MP Sabri Azit.
The meeting was scheduled to take place for two hours until 5pm.
On the opposition side, PKR president Anwar Ibrahim, who is also the Harapan chairperson, called for a meeting of all opposition blocs.
The meeting began at 3pm at a hotel in Shah Alam.
Harapan MPs, including Anwar and his wife Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, who is also the Pandan MP, were seen arriving at the hotel at about 2.45pm.
Neither MPs from Mahathir’s group and Warisan were spotted entering the meeting venue when it concluded at around 4.30pm.
However, DAP and Amanah leaders already met with the third bloc yesterday to coordinate their efforts. PKR was notably absent.
The third bloc held their own separate meeting earlier today in the Klang Valley.
DAP and Amanah had in recent weeks acted as the conduit for Harapan and the third bloc amid the apparently irreconcilable differences between Anwar’s PKR and Mahathir’s group.
Anwar Ibrahim said today he does not have “anything personal” against Dr Mahathir when asked if the disagreement between the two men was a hurdle to a united Opposition and whether they could set their differences aside and reconcile.
“As far as I am concerned, I look at it (in terms of) issues of policies and the reform agenda.
“Anyone, including Mahathir, if we can agree, then we will proceed and there is no problem. Nothing personal here,” Anwar was quoted as saying.
As for the meeting itself, Anwar said it was a PH affair and an informal meeting had already been held with Dr Mahathir’s group after the latter were noticeably absent from the gathering.
“There was a meeting representing us, in an informal session with Parti Warisan Sabah and Dr Mahathir’s faction of Bersatu and these matters were discussed, that they will jointly support the Opposition’s position.
“But this is considered purely a Harapan event and they are not in Harapan, but then there is a cordial working relationship,” he added in the report.
The one-and-half-hour meeting was attended by all 91 DAP, Amanah and PKR leaders.
Dr Mahathir previously declared that he and five other MPs would form an independent Opposition bloc with Parti Warisan Sabah in and outside Parliament. They also said that they are against any attempt to replace the Dewan Rakyat Speaker.
Anwar also said he was confident that PH, Warisan and Dr Mahathir’s bloc will put up a united front on the issue of the Dewan Rakyat motion to remove Speaker Tan Sri Mohamad Ariff Md Yusof and Deputy Speaker Nga Kor Ming.
According to the Dewan Rakyat’s Order Paper, Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin has submitted a motion for their removal.
The Perikatan Nasional government under Muhyiddin is proposing to replace them with Datuk Azhar Azizan Harun and Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said respectively.
Anwar said despite both blocs having solidly decided to vote against this motion, he appealed to other MPs to join them in retaining the current Speaker and deputy Speaker as well.
“This is a matter of principles and rule of law, this has never happened in Commonwealth history as well as our country’s history before.
“An appointment is only made when there is a vacancy, or a Speaker resigns.
“In our case, the performance of Ariff has been commendable in terms of reforms. There’s absolutely no basis to attempt to change mid-course.
“Therefore, I am appealing to MPs — other than Harapan which is solid and the Opposition which has given the commitment to stand firm — to consider this to protect the sanctity of Parliament and also of national importance to support the existing speaker Ariff and deputy speaker Nga,” he said.
Anwar further revealed that today’s meeting also discussed possible snap elections and the importance of being prepared for any eventuality.
“And we will start preparing for the elections,” he added.
When asked if PH will support Mahathir’s motion of no confidence against Muhyiddin, Anwar replied that government issues will be prioritised, and it may be difficult to debate on that.
“Due to that, we will focus on defending the position of the speaker,” he added
On his appointment in a parliamentary select committee, he said it was the norm for the opposition leader to be selected.
“I have to perform my task and present the need for parliamentary reforms,” he added.
The reforms revolve around the duration for debates, adequate notice for debates and motions.
Meanwhile, PH secretary-general Saifuddin Nasution said 108 out of the 222 MPs will be part of the opposition bloc in the Dewan Rakyat.