Law Expert: With Budget Due, No Way for Muhyiddin to Dodge Confidence Test

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Opponents could test Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin’s support in Parliament next month even if their motions of no-confidence are blocked, according to a constitutional expert.

Universiti Teknologi Malaysia research fellow for law and constitution Dr Muhammad Fathi Yusof told Sinar Harian this was because the federal Budget for 2021 was due to be tabled in the November-December meeting.

“If the Budget is not passed, it proves that Muhyiddin has lost the support of the majority,” he was quoted as saying.

By parliamentary convention, the failure to secure lawmakers’ approval for the national budget is considered a successful vote of no-confidence against the party in power, which is currently Perikatan Nasional (PN).

While a motion of no-confidence was submitted to Parliament before Muhyiddin’s government could remove the Speaker who accepted it, the motion has effectively been buried by listing it after all government matters.

This week, senior Umno lawmaker Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah publicised a letter he wrote to Speaker Datuk Azhar Azizan Harun urging the latter to promote the motion against Muhyiddin in Parliament’s agenda to allow this to take place.

Azhar said he could not do so without the agreement of the minister in the Prime Minister’s Department in charge of Parliament and Law.

By Muhammad Fathi’s reading, however, blocking the Budget was a sufficient proxy to the motion.

“According to Article 43 of the Federal Constitution, when a prime minister loses the confidence of the majority, there are two options available to Muhyiddin, which is to seek the dissolution of Parliament or to resign,” he was quoted as saying.

By the convention of collective ministerial responsibility, all members of Muhyiddin’s Cabinet would also be deemed to have resigned the moment his resignation is accepted by the Yang diPertuan Agong.

On Tuesday, Umno declared that it was reviewing its continued support for PN unless the party received improved terms.

Umno is not a member of PN but offers support on matters of supply and confidence to the coalition government, and several of its leaders are also members of Muhyiddin’s Cabinet.

Muhyiddin’s majority has never been officially established but is placed at 113 lawmakers from the 222-seat Parliament or just over the absolute minimum of 112 needed for a simple majority.

Parliament will sit from November 2 to December 15 for its next meeting. – MMO