KUALA LUMPUR,Dec 16 – Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin may have survived the Budget 2021 voting, but it only serves as a “temporary reprieve” for the embattled prime minister, as questions remain over his fragile grip in Parliament.
With the Supply Bill being passed with the slimmest of majorities yesterday — 111 to 108 — Muhyiddin’s position remains as unsafe as ever, especially with discontentment in Umno’s camp, according to observers.
Universiti Malaya academician Prof Awang Azman Awang Pawi said that the passing of the Budget does not translate to a vote of confidence for the prime minister.
“Certainly, the Budget was supported to ensure the people’s welfare is protected, that salaries can be paid out and development can continue. This must not be confused with a confidence vote.
“When it was passed at the third reading with a slim majority yesterday, it shows that the Perikatan Nasional (PN) government’s position is fragile, uncertain and can collapse anytime,” he told The Vibes.
Yesterday, after the Budget was put up for bloc voting, 111 lawmakers voted for, compared to the 108 against, seemingly proving that Muhyiddin, who is Bersatu president, still enjoys majority support of the Dewan Rakyat.
This comes as a huge relief to the prime minister, who has been the subject of much scrutiny, with speculation that several MPs from the government bloc would be turning against him.
Awang Azman said the PN government will only be able to hold out until the next general election if Umno is given what it wants, with negotiations for positions and power expected to take place soon.
“Surely there are conditions that have been given or negotiations taking place to ensure PN’s position is safe.
“And I’m certain the opposition will not give up and attempt to seek an audience with the Yang di-Pertuan Agong to submit statutory declarations and to inform His Majesty that the passing of the Budget does not mean a vote of confidence for Muhyiddin,” he said.
On opposition leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s unsuccessful bid to garner enough support in Parliament to block the Budget, Awang Azman said it is best that the PKR president returns to the drawing board and prepares for elections.
“He must strengthen his support at the grassroots level, meet with members in all divisions, provide his best service, and come up with a new, better solution in facing PN when the parliament dissolves,” he said.
Muhyiddin safe for today, not necessarily tomorrow
Singapore Institute of International Affairs senior fellow Oh Ei Sun said Muhyiddin should not be sitting too comfortably, seeing that the Budget was passed with a very slim majority and considering the fragmented political landscape.
“(Muhyiddin can) breathe a sigh of relief for today, but tomorrow is yet anybody’s game,” he said when contacted.
Oh also believes Muhyiddin will hold out as prime minister until the next general election, provided he satisfies the demands of his partners.
“It will be hard for him to preserve such (a slim) majority, so he must make sure his supporters are content with their respective political largesses,” he said.
As for Anwar, Oh said it would be even tougher now for the Port Dickson MP to claim majority support of the Dewan Rakyat, after being unable to prove his numbers in the all-decisive Budget 2021 voting.
He said the opposition’s failed attempt at blocking the Supply Bill at the third and final reading yesterday represents yet another calling of Anwar’s bluff.
Anwar, however, had already indicated that the opposition bloc would support the Budget if it adhered to the opposition’s demands and it was indeed a Budget for economic recovery and to battle the pandemic.
“At the end of the day, those Umno MPs toying with the idea of supporting him did not come through,” Oh noted. – The Vibes