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We do not want political instability – but we do not want emergency either

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Jeyakumar Devaraj proposes a six-month reprieve for the PM.

Most Malaysians do not want a general election to be called in the next three months.

We have seen how the Sabah state election has created a huge increase in the number of cases that has led to enhanced movement control orders, partial lockdowns and economic difficulties for millions of families.

Malaysians on the whole do not want the Covid-19 situation to get further out of control.

Many feel that even if Anwar Ibrahim has the numbers now to win a no-confidence vote against Muhyiddin Yassin, the government he would form would not be stable, as the non-Pakatan Harapan members of his coalition would be the same MPs who initially offered support to Muhyiddin. There is every chance they will pull the rug from under Anwar when they think the time is right for them to trigger a general election.

Given the anxiety that the political tactics by Anwar and his parliamentary supporters might lead to a general elections before the Covid-19 spike is under proper control, made the option of a six-month emergency palatable to quite a number of Malaysians. They agree that “a grave emergency that threatens the security and economic life of the Federation” (Article 150(1) of the Federal Constitution) does exist at this time.

However, there were many Malaysians who did not want Parliament to be suspended for six months. The battle to contain Covid-19 is a complex one and we need the parliamentary opposition to ask questions, provide alternative suggestions and generally provide the check and balances that our decision-makers need.

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An emergency would have silenced Parliament, and this crucial platform, where government policies and programmes can be debated, would have ceased to exist for the duration of the emergency. That would have been a loss to all of us.

Also, an emergency would have concentrated power in the executive, and this could have encouraged authoritarian and repressive tendencies in government. An emergency would have represented an erosion of the democratic rights of Malaysians.

There is a way out of this impasse. But the window for it is quite narrow.

It would require the leaders of the PH parties to give their solemn pledge they will not attempt to bring down the Perikatan Nasional government for the next six months – that they will not propose any no-confidence motion nor will they cause a defeat of Budget 2021.

It would also require Muhyiddin to agree that his government would not obstruct a no-confidence motion if is moved after the completion of the six-month period.

An agreement as sketched above would serve multiple purposes: it would remove the risks of calling a general election in the near future while at the same time allowing Parliament to play a proper role in charting a course in this ‘new normal’ Covid-19 era.

It is probably the best possible outcome at this point. The question is whether we have sufficient statespersons in positions of leadership to arrive at such a consensus.

24 October 2020

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