Muhyiddin Caught Between Rock and Hard Place

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The no-confidence motion against Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin is unprecedented, whether or not it will be debated in Dewan Rakyat on May 18, said political analysts.

This is the first time a government backbencher has tabled a no-confidence motion in Parliament against a prime minister from his party.

“The first time a confidence motion was raised in Dewan Rakyat was for our third prime minister, Hussein Onn, in 1976,” said Jeffrey Sachs Centre of Sustainable Development researcher Wong Chin Huat.

Shortly after succeeding Abdul Razak Hussein, who died of cancer in 1971, Hussein Onn wanted to establish legitimacy through Parliament and successfully faced the motion of confidence, which was raised by Barisan Nasional’s Pahang Senator Wan Ibrahim Wan Tanjong.

But Bersatu chairman Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s no-confidence motion against Bersatu president Muhyiddin has wider implications, said University Teknologi Malaysia’s Mazlan Ali.

“The motion raises questions of Muhyiddin’s own support within his party, as it’s not just from any party member, but the party chairman himself,” said Mazlan.

“It’s really quite dramatic.”

He said the move by Dr Mahathir and Warisan MPs Liew Vui Keong and Mohd Shafie Apdal are “most calculated”.

“They are not just testing Muhyiddin’s popularity in Dewan Rakyat but also keen to establish that Dr Mahathir is the popular choice for prime minister, and not Anwar Ibrahim,” said the political science lecturer.

While Dr Mahathir’s motion against Muhyiddin is a clear signal of discord between the two, Shafie’s motion to support the 94-year-old shows where Warisan is leaning, said Mazlan.

“He wants to let everyone, including Pakatan Harapan, know that his party is backing Dr Mahathir as prime minister and not Anwar.”

Liew’s motion to maintain Dewan Rakyat Speaker Mohamed Ariff Yusof is another signal Dr Mahathir wants to send to the public, said Mazlan.

“Ariff has been very fair so far and amidst rumours that Perikatan Nasional (PN) wants to replace him, Dr Mahathir has thrown the gauntlet down to the new government.

“Replace honest Ariff at your own peril.”

Ariff accepted Dr Mahathir’s no-confidence motion against Muhyiddin and rejected Warisan’s motion to maintain him as speaker for a full term and the confidence motion in support of the Langkawi MP.

Light of day

While the motions have created political buzz amid the Covid-19 lockdown, former senator Khairul Azwan Harun does not believe it will see the light of day.


“The speaker may have accepted Dr Mahathir’s motion, but he will most probably be unable to carry it out due to the lack of time. He will then adjourn the proceedings and move the motion to the next sitting,” said the Cent-GPS founder.

The only time an opposition motion has come up in Dewan Rakyat was on April 6, 2017 when former speaker Pandikar Amin Mulia allowed PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang to table the controversial RUU355 bill.

Amid speculation that PAS was working with Umno, Hadi tabled the motion to raise Shariah punishments before the lunch break.

After the break, Kota Baru MP Takiyuddin Hassan was allowed to second the motion before Pandikar cut off the political exercise by adjourning the meeting without debate. Barisan Nasional did not allow the RUU355 bill to resurface after that.

Unlike some of the more matured Westminster parliaments, which have opposition days, parliament agenda is set by the government of the day. In the UK, parliament allocates 20 days to the opposition while Canada provides for 22.

Takiyuddin, now de facto law minister, hinted as much yesterday when he said government business will take precedence on the one-day sitting on May 18.

This is reinforced by Parliament’s Standing Orders Rules 14 and 15.

According to Parliament secretary Riduan Rahmat, the one-day sitting will kick off with the king’s royal address, followed by government bills and business only.

Difficult time for Muhyiddin

But Azwan questioned the timing of the opposition’s no-confidence motion against the prime minister.

“Although it’s expected, it clearly shows Dr Mahathir and Pakatan Harapan were lying about prioritising people’s needs during this Covid-19 outbreak,” said the former Umno Youth deputy chief.

“They should wait until after Covid-19 is over before returning to politics. They themselves don’t have anything better to do.”

Mazlan and Wong believe that the motion has also thrown up more possibilities of “support” buying over the next 10 days.

“Muhyiddin is stuck. If he loses the motion, he will either have to resign or dissolve Parliament for fresh elections. But his Bersatu cannot win in fresh elections,” said Mazlan.

Over the weekend, Umno deputy president Mohamad Hasan has already said publicly that his party was only in Perikatan Nasional temporarily, said Mazlan.

“Umno and PAS are on the rise. So, where can Bersatu go if there are fresh elections?”

Wong expects more GLC appointments to be made in the next 10 days too, to ensure Muhyiddin has enough support should the motion get through.

Kamal Ariffin/TMI

But ultimately, Muhyiddin is now caught between a rock and a hard place now. – TMI