Would it not be logical for the Perikatan Nasional government to be defeated first before looking for a new coalition of forces to craft a confidence-and-supply agreement, Johan Saravanamuttu writes.
Bersih 2.0 has proposed a confidence-and-supply agreement, an idea which has won support from politicians such as the DAP’s Liew Chin Tong.
Malaysians have been introduced to an interesting tactic used when minority governments in the Westminster parliamentary systems want to stay in power. It refers to an agreement with opposition parties to support the sitting government’s attempt to pass supply bills or budgets.
Do the current political developments warrant such a move? Which parties should forge the confidence-and-supply agreement? The most important events which relate to this are these:
- The razor-thin majority of the PN government. This was only tested once when it won an 111-106 (with five absentees) in the Supply Reallocation Allocation Bill of August 2020
- The failure of Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin’s gambit of advising the Agong to impose an emergency
- The Agong’s historic and unprecedented rejection of the PM’s request after consulting his fellow rulers on 25 October 2020
- An Umno Supreme Council decision on 26 October 2020 to continue support for PN, followed by Pas doing the same
- An impending Budget vote due for the November 2020 sitting of the Dewan Rakyat
A number of issues arise as to how the idea of a confidence-and-supply agreement can and should be implemented.
First, it is not yet clear if the Muhyiddin-led PN government really is a minority government. There has been no vote of confidence (or no-confidence) in the Dewan Rakyat, and the present Speaker is at pains to explain why he would not countenance such a vote – although he may be challenged on its legality.
Thus, logically, there is as yet no real need for a confidence-and-supply agreement by the present government. The suggestion came about because Bersih 2.0 and other proponents assumed Muhyiddin would need such a pact because of his lack of numbers in passing the Budget next month. This is deduced from his move to seek an emergency ordinance from the Agong and from various political rumblings.
It follows then that the PN government must be first put to the test. If it suffers defeat in the several motions (if allowed) of no confidence proposed by parliamentarians or is defeated in the Budget bill, only then would there be a need for a confidence-and-supply agreement.
In legislatures of the Westminster system, this is what has usually occurred. The example of British Columbia, Canada, comes to mind. In 2017, the Green Party endorsed a confidence-and-supply agreement in support of the New Democratic Party (NDP) after the Liberals were defeated in a confidence vote.
So, in Malaysia’s current situation, would it not be logical for the PN government to be defeated first before looking for a new coalition of forces to craft a confidence-and-supply agreement? Should the PN government be defeated, Muhyiddin would have to resign – although he would have the option to ask the Agong for a dissolution of Parliament.
The Agong in his wisdom could first ask for a coalition of parties to form a new government and obviate the need for a general election given the Covid-19 situation. In fact, by convention, this should be the first step to be taken – not a dissolution of Parliament.
A minority government could first be formed of the coalition of parties with the most votes in total. It is a no-brainer that this group of forces would probably be the Pakatan Harapan-plus political parties led by Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim. Of course, other possibilities could also be on the table.