The opposition’s proposal for a confidence and supply agreement (CSA) with the new government will be left to the cabinet to decide, sources said.
That was Ismail’s response when he met with Pakatan Harapan’s (PH) top three leaders Anwar Ibrahim, Mohamad Sabu, and Lim Guan Eng last Wednesday.
The political arrangement will involve Putrajaya implementing certain reforms in exchange for the opposition’s support for new Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob in Parliament.
A CSA is where opposition members, usually in a minority government, agree to support the prime minister in a confidence motion and vote with the government on budgetary matters, in return for more say and influence over policy matters.
The CSA has also been referred to as a “confidence and supply reform agreement” by DAP veteran Lim Kit Siang.
Two sources familiar with the talks told The Malaysian Insight that the prime minister did not oppose the idea at a meeting.
“But he said that it was a matter that should be decided by the cabinet.
“Although Ismail Sabri was the one who initiated the discussion, the terms were proposed by Pakatan Harapan,” one source said.
According to the source, PH wants the same terms offered by Ismail’s predecessor, Muhyiddin Yassin.
Just three days before Muhyiddin resigned on August 16, the former prime minister had appealed to the opposition for their support in a last-ditch attempt to stay in power before a confidence vote in Parliament that was supposed to take place next month.
The Bersatu president’s offer, however, was rejected and the 74-year-old resigned several days later.
Muhyiddin’s offer had included a limit on the term of the prime minister to two terms, laws to stop party-hopping, implementation of Undi18, equal constituency allocations, and an increase in Covid-19 spending by RM45 billion.
He also promised various parliamentary reforms, including prior consultation with the opposition on bills to be tabled, appointing more opposition MPs to Parliament’s select committees, and raising the stature of the opposition leader’s office.
DAP publicity chief and Damansara MP Tony Pua told an online forum on August 27, 2021 that PH is “ready” to accept a deal with the government and expressed optimism that it would succeed as Ismail is in a weak position within Umno.
PH chief secretary Saifuddin Nasution Ismail also confirmed the negotiations but added that Pua’s remarks were “premature” as discussions were still ongoing.
Will ministers from Umno, PAS, and Bersatu accept the deal?
Another source, who confirmed that the issue will be presented to Ismail’s cabinet, said PH does not expect all the terms to be met.
“Some of the demands will be difficult as Umno and PAS may not support them.
“It would be easy if it was just equal constituency allocations for government and opposition MPs but PH wants an anti-party-hopping law before the year end,” said the source.
The source noted that the previous Perikatan Nasional government was formed on the basis of party-hopping, and its former ministers, many of whom have been reappointed as ministers under Ismail’s cabinet, would be reluctant to end it.
“But Umno has also suffered a lot from party-hopping since 2018 and may be agreeable this time,” said the source, who is an MP.
DAP’s Pua, said it would be in Ismail’s interest to forge a confidence and supply deal with the opposition as the Umno vice-president, much like Muhyiddin, only has a thin majority with the support of 114 out of 220 MPs in Dewan Rakyat.
“He doesn’t want to fall into the same trap or weakness that Muhyiddin faced. So, Ismail Sabri is making the move right at the start – let’s talk to the other side, let’s come to some form of arrangement that will keep me stable and allow me to keep my internal enemies – Najib (Razak), Zahid (Ahmad Zahid Hamidi) and the court cluster – at bay,” Pua said.
Zahid, who is Umno president, is seen as a threat to Ismail within the party.
Prior to Muhyiddin’ resignation, Zahid and Ismail each led different factions of Umno MPs, who were split over supporting Muhyiddin. However, Umno eventually closed ranks to support Ismail as the ninth prime minister candidate.
With the exception of Noh Omar, none of the 14 Umno MPs who sided with Zahid against Muhyiddin were not given any cabinet posts by Ismail.
The new government has not responded to speculation that it is in talks with the opposition over the CSA. The new cabinet is expected to hold its first meeting on September 1 after the ministers are sworn in today. – TMI