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Sunday, February 28, 2021

Numbers game tilts in Muhyiddin's favour amid push to reconvene Parliament

 


Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin is rounding up MPs to bolster his support amid a push by the opposition to reconvene Parliament during the emergency.

In December last year, Muhyiddin managed to get Budget 2021 passed with 111 MPs, the minimum needed in the Dewan Rakyat with 220 MPs. Another two seats are vacant, following the death of the incumbents.

Government backbenchers had turned out in force except for Gua Musang MP Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah who had publicly renounced Muhyiddin.

Since then, another two government MPs, namely Padang Rengas Mohamed Nazri Abdul Aziz and Machang's Ahmad Jazlan Yaakub, have publicly withdrawn their support, causing Muhyiddin to lose his majority in the House.

Following their withdrawal, Muhyiddin commanded the support of 109 out of 220 MPs.

However, with Tebrau MP Steven Choong and Julau MP Larry Sng quitting PKR to support Muhyiddin today, the prime minister is back to 111 MPs.

The simple majority, however, remains fragile as a number of Umno MPs continued to be a thorn by Muhyiddin's side but yet to publicly renounce him.

The prime minister had made an example of them by slashing their MPs' allocation from RM3.7 million to RM100,000.

Apart from Nazri and Jazlan who have already withdrawn support for Muhyiddin, the other Umno elected representatives to see their allocations slashed were Pekan MP Najib Abdul Razak, Bagan Datuk MP Ahmad Zahid Hamidi and Pontian MP Ahmad Maslan.

Najib, Zahid and Ahmad have yet to publicly renounce Muhyiddin and they could easily reverse the prime minister's fragile majority.

Bagan Datuk MP Ahmad Zahid Hamidi and Pekan MP Najib Abdul Razak.

However, Malaysiakini learnt that Muhyiddin's allies are still actively recruiting MPs from the opposition and more may be made public soon. 

Despite Muhyiddin's fragile majority, he is also helped by a divided opposition.

With the exit of two PKR lawmakers today, Pakatan Harapan is down to 89 MPs.

The remaining opposition MPs are from the yet-to-be-registered Parti Pejuang Tanahair and Muda, PSB, Warisan, Upko and independents.

The opposition and a rebellious faction in Umno had been petitioning the Yang di-Pertuan Agong to reconvene Parliament which was suspended when a state of emergency was imposed on Jan 11.

Attention shifted to Muhyiddin when the Agong said this was possible but only if Muhyiddin advised him to do so. 

Najib saw the defections in a positive light, stating that it will improve the likelihood for Parliament to be reconvened.

"This is good news for the country even though many are questioning if it is the right move for the prime minister to recruit MPs during the emergency.

"The chances of Parliament to reconvene will improve and democracy can be restored," he said.

Muhyiddin had said the emergency was necessary to combat the Covid-19 pandemic but critics accused him of trying to cling on to power when he lost his majority in the Dewan Rakyat.

The prime minister will be in a more comfortable position to reconvene Parliament if he can continue to bolster his support in the Dewan Rakyat.

Under the emergency, the opposition is unlikely to oust Muhyiddin even if they can muster the numbers as it is an emergency government that does not depend on a parliamentary majority.

However, commanding a simple majority in the Dewan Rakyat will help Muhyiddin to maintain good optics and stave off any attempts by the opposition to embarrass him if the House reconvenes.

The emergency will expire in August. Muhyiddin had promised to hold a general election after the Covid-19 pandemic is resolved. Mass vaccination is currently underway. - Mkini

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