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Parliament is the place where Muhyiddin, Anwar or anyone else must prove they have a majority

How should MPs behave in Parliament?

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In light of a possible loss of confidence in Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin, Aliran stresses the importance of upholding parliamentary democracy instead of sidelining it.

We reiterate the urgency of convening Parliament to resolve the multiple crises facing the nation. It is alarming that Parliament is only sitting for 52 days from March to December 2020.

The only way to resolve the political impasse is to do things openly and in line with parliamentary convention.

MPs should have the option of voting on a motion of confidence in Parliament. In the UK, this can take the form of a confidence motion (by the government) or a no-confidence motion (usually by the opposition).

Such motions should not be lowered down the order paper after “government business”. Under parliamentary convention, a no-confidence vote takes precedence over normal parliamentary business for the day and usually begins with speeches by the prime minister and the leader of the opposition. In the UK, there have been three votes of confidence and 23 votes of no-confidence since 1945.

“It is possible for a vote of no confidence to succeed where there is a minority government or a small majority, or where there are internal party splits leading to some members of the ruling party voting against its leaders. Where there is a minority government, the government may seek agreements or pacts with other parties in order to prevail in the vote and remain in office” (Wikipedia).

The point is, Parliament is the place where all this should be resolved. After all, the leader of the nation should have the trust of more MPs than any other rival in the House of Representatives (Dewan Rakyat). It is simply not possible for a government to function effectively without the support of the majority of MPs.

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Isn’t the sidelining of Parliament a major source of our problems since the Sheraton Move? All this wheeling and dealing, ‘stealth politics’ and backroom deals have taken their toll on the nation. It is one thing if our MPs are fighting over who can best serve the people’s interests, but this is hardly the case. We don’t want our precious public funds used as bait to lure political defectors, who may easily hop over to the other side instead of focusing on the people’s welfare.

All this political jostling is taking place at a time when the House of Representatives has been largely sidelined. The house is sitting for only a minimal time during its third session this year, a period of multiple crises.

First meeting: 18 May 2020 (1 day)

Second meeting: 13 July 2020 – 27 August 2020 (25 days)

Third meeting: 2 November 2020 – 15 December 2020 (26 days)

Total: 52 days only

When Parliament barely sits, it is no wonder MP turn their attention elsewhere, to matters not entirely in the people’s interest. The avenue for debating and critiquing policy matters and offering alternative solutions is lost.

A motion of no-confidence in Parliament or a vote on the Budget will allow Muhyiddin to prove whether he commands a parliamentary majority. MPs will have to make their stand publicly, in full view of the voters who elected them – and not by stealth in backroom deals.

We reiterate the importance of Parliament as part of the system of checks and balances under the concept of the separation of powers between the executive, the legislature and the judiciary.

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This system of checks and balances is even more crucial in times of crisis – let alone the multiple crises we are facing now – to check on any abuse of executive powers.

So we categorically reject calls for the prorogation or suspension of Parliament or emergency rule during this time of crises.

Instead, we call for Parliament to be the place where the leader and any rival leaders show whether they have the trust and confidence of the majority of the people’s elected representatives.

If a no-confidence vote is passed, then the incumbent government must resign and a fresh general election must be held. But given the present worrying Covid-19 situation after the Sabah election, a general election now would not be advisable.

Meanwhile, if another MP, hopefully an inclusive one with the people’s interests at heart, can prove majority support in the house, he or she should be allowed to lead the nation until such time the health situation allows for a general election to seek a fresh mandate from the people.

A sitting government can only function effectively if its political legitimacy is well established in a transparent manner. We badly need this matter of who should run the government resolved in Parliament so that the government can get down to the business of governing the nation, besieged by the pandemic, without always having to look over its shoulder.

Aliran executive committee
17 October 2020
Thanks for dropping by! The views expressed in Aliran's media statements and the NGO statements we have endorsed reflect Aliran's official stand. Views and opinions expressed in other pieces published here do not necessarily reflect Aliran's official position.

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