Failure to Defeat Budget 2021

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With a leader like the confused and indecisive Anwar, who needs enemies?

Reuters

When the Democratic Action Party (DAP) sided with former PM Mahathir in June, Anwar hardcore supporters went berserk and accused DAP of being power-hungry and corrupted. DAP leaders were mocked and ridiculed for blindly supporting Mahathir. They urged Anwar Ibrahim, the president of People’s Justice Party (PKR), to go solo and kick DAP out of the Pakatan Harapan coalition.

When the same Democratic Action Party sided with Anwar during Thursday’s Budget 2021 voting, Anwar hardcore supporters went quiet despite the disruptive eleventh-hour decision not to vote down the budget. But DAP leaders were still being mocked and ridiculed, this time for blindly supporting Anwar. Mahathir condemned fellow opposition MPs for failing to oppose a corrupt backdoor government.

Are Anwar hardcore supporters happy now after their idol screwed everyone from behind by leading the biggest bloc of 91 Opposition MPs in the Pakatan Harapan (Alliance of Hope) coalition to “NOT” reject the budget, arguably the best chance to do so? Poor DAP. They are damned if they support Mahathir Mohamad and damned too, if they support Anwar Ibrahim.

The backdoor Prime Minister Muhyiddin was down to only 110 MPs after the death of Gerik MP Hasbullah Osman, the boycott of MP Razaleigh Hamzah, and the absence of MP Nazri Aziz. Therefore, technically, the PM’s Perikatan Nasional coalition did not have the minimum of 112 Members of Parliaments to represent a simple majority government on Nov 26.

Yet, instead of taking the advantage to knock down the illegitimate government – even if only symbolically – Opposition leader Anwar decided to “indirectly recognize” the man who had snatched his crown. He gave an instruction at the last minute to lawmakers of his coalition to allow Budget 2021 through the policy stage. His orders created confusion and chaos – even anger and frustration.

After two weeks of debate and four days of winding-up session by ministers at the Dewan Rakyat (Lower House), the Supply Bill or Budget 2021 was passed – easily – at the policy stage on Thursday (Nov 26). There was a reason why the budget was approved by “voice vote”, even after attempts by several opposition MPs to initiate bloc voting failed when only 13 MPs stood up – less than the required 15.

Nobody knows how many MPs actually voted for the budget. That’s because Speaker Azhar Azizan Harun cleverly used “voice vote” to get it passed and did not want to reveal the actual embarrassing number, which is believed to be only 110 MPs at most. The expected fireworks of the possibility that Muhyiddin may lose his job if his budget is rejected failed to materialize.

It’s easy to understand why DAP could not vote against the budget without the full force of the entire Pakatan Harapan coalition. The Chinese-dominated Democratic Action Party will be demonized by the racist, extreme, radical and corrupt Malay-Muslim government of UMNO-Bersatu-PAS as anti-Malay, anti-Muslim, anti-Islam, anti-Malay Rulers and whatnot.

To make matters worse for DAP, the Agong (King) has been telling both sides of the political divide to support Muhyiddin budget due to the current Coronavirus pandemic, despite the fact that such order from the Palace dangerously creates the perception that the monarch has essentially interfered in politics. Hence, DAP had every reason to be cautious.

As admitted by Anwar, leaders from Pakatan Harapan component parties like DAP Secretary-General Lim Guan Eng and National Trust Party (Amanah) President Mohamad Sabu were keen to push for a bloc vote in the Dewan Rakyat. But Anwar’s request had prevented the budget, the largest in the history with an allocation of RM322.5 billion, from being challenged.

To add more confusion, DAP supremo Lim Kit Siang reveals that the Pakatan Harapan presidential council decided as recently as Nov 25 to unanimously object to Budget 2021 by calling for a division and voting against it. And the intention had been communicated to other leaders like Mahathir and Sabah-based Warisan president Shafie Apdal. Everyone was ready for action.

The next day (Nov 26), Anwar flip-flopped and changed his mind abruptly, resulting in chaos and confusion with some fellow opposition MPs looking like fools in the Parliament. Some stood up, only to reverse their action after noticing their colleagues did not do so. Anwar’s reckless unilateral decision had led to some frustrated opposition MPs complaining. Apparently, they did not get the “last-minute” memo.

The PM-in-waiting Anwar claimed that even though the Budget 2021 is allowed to pass at the policy stage, the opposition will return strongly to scrutinise the budget during the committee stage debate from Monday. Exactly what type of grass has he been smoking? You can’t be half-pregnant. Nov 26 was the only chance for the budget to be either rejected or passed.

And it was approved, thanks to Anwar’s genius tactical move. At the committee stage, only small amendments to the Bill can be made and voted for at the third and final reading. As a former finance minister, it’s incredibly hilarious that Anwar did not realize the budget is as good as a done deal the moment he allowed it to be passed at the second reading on Thursday.

If Anwar dared not defeat the budget at the second reading (Thursday), what are the chances that he has the courage, let alone resources, to defeat it at the third and final reading? He talked as if he was the only genius in the game. Almost every lawmaker, including veterans Lim Kit Siang and Mahathir Mohamad, a twice prime minister, was flabbergasted at Anwar’s bizarre last-minute move.

Even Anwar’s own daughter Nurul Izzah, a lawmaker herself, was disappointed with his order to suddenly go soft on Muhyiddin. It looks more like the PKR president was trying to save the backdoor prime minister, not to defeat him. In fact, it’s not an exaggeration to suggest that Anwar has betrayed everyone in the Pakatan Harapan coalition with his latest manoeuvre.

A bloc vote would have required all lawmakers to have their votes formally counted, revealing the total number of those supporting Muhyiddin, whose last count commanded a razor-thin two-seat majority of 113 in the 222-seat Parliament. The PM now can comfortably claim to have the majority – even legitimacy – because Anwar foolishly and deliberately blocked his own colleagues’ bloc vote.

One of the reasons Anwar had chickened out was after he noticed rebel UMNO backbenchers were no longer interested to oppose the budget, hence destroying his chance to overthrow Muhyiddin. But even if he had failed to get the additional support from UMNO rebels, who had tricked and played him previously, he should have pushed ahead with a bloc vote to reveal Muhyiddin’s card.

At the most, Muhyiddin had 110 MPs on his side (Thursday). Any extra support would mean betrayals from the opposition camp, which means there is all the more reason to allow fellow opposition lawmakers to proceed in order to see who the traitors are. After all, every Tom, Dick and Harry knew Anwar’s Pakatan Harapan (Alliance of Hope) has a maximum of 91 MPs.

Besides, rival Mahathir had stood up leading the opposition to defeat the budget. Mahathir was one of the 13 courageous MPs who tried – but failed – to initiate the bloc voting. You may hate Mahathir for various reasons, but at least he knew what he was doing and would decisively do it, especially when people were expecting a lawmaker like him to do the right thing.

As the opposition leader, should not Anwar show his own leadership instead of allowing the 95-year-old Mahathir to steal the thunder? Perhaps the PKR president childishly wanted to humiliate the old man in the Parliament and had never planned to overthrow the backdoor prime minister in the first place. Perhaps Anwar’s dramatic stunt was to trap Mahathir.

Suddenly, everything makes sense when Anwar’s party said on June 24 that PKR would rather put its resources into facing a snap election than support a no-confidence vote in Parliament. Yesterday, faced with the opportunity to use a bloc vote, which would have been equivalent to a no-confidence vote in Muhyiddin’s leadership, Anwar retreated and surrendered even before the battle could begin.

As much as Anwar likes to justify his silly and disastrous tactical move, he cannot expect to constantly make U-turns at the 11th hour whenever people whom he expected to serve his plate fail to keep their promise, as in the case of rebellious UMNO warlords. Previously, he had expected Mahathir to deliver the numbers to him. Then, he expected Zahid to do the same.

Is Anwar trying to butter Muhyiddin by sabotaging his own opposition’s plan to defeat the Budget 2021, with the desperate hope that the prime minister will one day call and invite him to join the backdoor government? It’s definitely a shame that out of 108 MPs in the opposition camp, it could not even get 15 MPs to trigger a bloc voting at a critical time.

Another reason Anwar refused to challenge the budget may be due to his fear of offending the Agong. If the Prime Minister Wannabe can’t stand the heat, he should get out of the kitchen. Muhyiddin was brave enough to engage a lawyer to challenge the King’s decision not to proclaim emergency, and there’s nothing the monarch can do. Does Anwar dare do such thing?

Anwar’s weak and indecisive leadership has not only confused fellow lawmakers, but also send conflicting messages to the people as to his real intention or game plan. His sudden change of plan could be nothing but to selfishly protect himself from being criticised by Malay voters and Malay Sultans. But no amount of hand-kissing the royal house could impress the monarchs.

If the King had been impressed with Anwar’s credentials, confidence and claims during their meeting last month, the monarch would not have had cancelled appointments with political party leaders to verify his numbers. In the same breath, if the Malay voters are convinced of Anwar’s leadership, they would believe his arguments and not his last-minute flip-flops.

More importantly, as the Opposition leader, the PKR president should and must lead the Pakatan Harapan instead of irresponsibly leaving the 91 MPs in the lurch. Under his leadership, unfortunately, the coalition is seen running around like a headless chicken. Is Pakatan even ready to face a sudden snap election, should PM Muhyiddin somehow declare one?

While Anwar’s political rhetoric is pretty impressive, where he often makes mind-boggling announcements like Donald Trump, he lacks good finishing. He needs to be like Diego Maradona, where the Argentine footballer could score goal with his hand that not even the referee could dispute. Anwar is arguably a leader who is a jack of all trades, master of none. – Finance Twitter