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Speaker must schedule confidence vote at this Parliament sitting

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Aliran notes with grave concern how Dewan Rakyat Speaker Azhar Azizan Harun has refused to bring up any of the 27 motions to test whether the prime minister enjoys the confidence of the House.

MPs have been trying to put a no-confidence motion to the floor since the Perikatan Nasional government seized power in a coup in March.

In the absence of a popular mandate from the people, it is all the more crucial to test whether the prime minister enjoys the confidence of the majority of the MPs in the House.

So far, 25 no-confidence motions and two confidence motions have been filed. But these languish at the bottom of the order paper with little chance of seeing the light of day.

The reasons for not bringing forward these motions as a matter of priority have been frivolous. The Speaker insists he has no power to move businesses out of the regular order and says only a minister can initiate the process of moving any non-government business up the queue.

But Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Parliament and Law) Takiyuddin Hassan says there is no urgency as he claims “there are no clear indications that the MP for Pagoh (Muhyiddin Yassin) has lost the confidence of the House”.

Thus far in all the bloc votes on Budget 2021 since 26 November, even though the PN government has prevailed in the voting by precarious margins, the highest number of votes the government has mustered is 110 – two short of a simple majority of 112 MPs in the 222-seat Parliament.

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This means that, while the 27 motions lie at the bottom of the order paper, the public remains uncertain whether Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin enjoys the confidence of the majority of MPs in Parliament. This is an affront to democratic principles.

While it is true that private members’ matters come after government matters in the order paper, Azhar himself pointed out in 2015 (before he became Speaker) that a motion of no-confidence is different from a private member’s matter. A no-confidence motion, he had asserted, takes priority by convention or constitutional practice: “A motion of no-confidence must be brought first on the list.”

It would seem that Azhar’s stand has changed since he was brought in as the Speaker by the PN government.

Aliran calls for the PN government and the Speaker to adhere to the Westminster parliamentary convention, which Malaysia follows, and allow for the motions of confidence and no-confidence in the PM to be debated and voted upon.

Until that happens, Muhyiddin Yassin as Prime Minister – and by extension, his government – will lack the moral legitimacy in the eyes of many. Any bill that is passed in this sitting may also become questionable as long as the political legitimacy of this government remains in doubt.

Once a vote is taken, let the cards fall where it may. Enough with horse trading regarding numbers to hold on to or to sway the base of power.

And once this issue is settled, the MPs, politicians and elected leaders must then focus on the problems at hand. The nation is grappling with a pandemic and an economic slump – which need their immediate and undivided attention.

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It is the least the people are entitled to.

Aliran executive committee
14 December 2020
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