What it means when an opposition MP supports the prime minister

What it means when an opposition MP supports the prime minister

What it means when an opposition MP supports the prime minister
The government may once again have a two-thirds majority in the Dewan Rakyat after four Bersatu MPs publicly declared their support for Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim recently. (Facebook pic)

PETALING JAYA: In the past few weeks, a growing number of opposition MPs have been throwing their support behind Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim and his unity government.

So far, four Bersatu MPs have shifted their allegiances: Iskandar Dzulkarnain Abdul Khalid (Kuala Kangsar), Suhaili Abdul Rahman (Labuan), Azizi Abu Naim (Gua Musang) and Zahari Kechik (Jeli).

FMT looks at the different ways MPs can pledge support for the prime minister, why these Bersatu MPs are backing the current administration, and the significance of a two-thirds parliamentary majority.

Anwar’s support

Anwar’s unity government originally had a two-thirds majority but lost it when Muar MP Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman withdrew his support in September, citing dissatisfaction over the conditional discharge granted to deputy prime minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi from 47 criminal charges he was facing.

That left Anwar with the support of 147 of 222 MPs in the lower house, comprising MPs from Pakatan Harapan (81), Barisan Nasional (30), Gabungan Parti Sarawak (23), Gabungan Rakyat Sabah (six), Warisan (three), Parti Kesejahteraan Demokratik Masyarakat (two), Parti Bangsa Malaysia (one) and one independent candidate.

The inclusion of the four Bersatu MPs is set to take the unity government above the two-thirds majority threshold once again.

What it means when an opposition MP supports the prime minister

What it means when an opposition MP supports the prime minister© Provided by Free Malaysia Today

What constitutes support for the prime minister?

Oh Ei Sun of the Singapore Institute of International Affairs said the most definitive way for an MP to declare support for the prime minister is by voting “yes” in a vote of confidence.

“Support for a prime minister by an MP can also be expressed by voting for the budget as tabled by the government of the day,” he told FMT.

Oh said while public declarations and the signing of statutory declarations may also suffice, such expressions of support can be easily rescinded.

“(SDs) may only be valid at the instance they are signed or made, not before or after. They (MPs) could change their minds a second afterwards. So this sort of support is actually quite fragile,” he said.

Why the four now support Anwar

The four Bersatu MPs said they decided to back the government for the sake of their constituents and to ensure continued development of their constituencies.

Currently, each of the government’s 147 MPs is allocated development funds of RM1.3 million a year, an amount several times higher than the allocation for opposition MPs.

Some opposition MPs say they have not received any allocations from the unity government since it came into power last December.

In the past, especially during Barisan Nasional’s long stint in government, opposition MPs either received minimal allocations or none at all.

During the PH administration, government MPs could apply for up to RM3.5 million annually while the allocation for opposition MPs was capped at RM100,000. This disparity continued under Perikatan Nasional.

It was only during Ismail Sabri Yaakob’s tenure as prime minister that opposition MPs were given equal allocations, following a memorandum of understanding signed between his coalition and PH, which was then in the opposition.

What can a prime minister do with a two-thirds majority?

Constitutional expert Wan Ahmad Fauzi Wan Husain said securing a two-thirds majority is crucial, as it not only strengthens a government’s position but also facilitates constitutional amendments.

Article 159(3) of the Federal Constitution mandates that a two-thirds majority in the Dewan Rakyat is needed to amend provisions which concern state borders, the special position of Bumiputeras, religion, citizenship and the powers given to the Conference of Rulers.

“However, Article 159(5) has imposed a stricter qualification for the amendment of the basic structure of our Federal Constitution. (It) states that the amendments shall not be passed without the consent of the Conference of Rulers.”

What it means when an opposition MP supports the prime minister

What it means when an opposition MP supports the prime minister© Provided by Free Malaysia Today

Consequences and criticisms

As Iskandar Zulkarnian and Suhaili have discovered, backing the government as an opposition member carries with it the risk of suspension and loss of party positions.

The switching of support by the four MPs has also sparked various reactions from NGOs and MPs, particularly those who have repeatedly called for equal allocations.



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Electoral reform group Bersih said the decision by the four opposition MPs to back the current government showed the country’s “tragic political reality”, where the desperation for development funds is capable of swaying political allegiance.

Government backbenchers, including Julau MP Larry Sng and Semporna MP Shafie Apdal, have expressed disappointment that MPs have had to resort to such measures to secure allocations.

Meanwhile, Bersatu said the anti-hopping law needs to be reviewed as recent events have revealed “flaws” in the existing provision.

However, according to ex-MP Khairy Jamaluddin, the opposition party only has itself to blame for its predicament.

He said the party’s MPs had opposed a provision in the original draft that would have declared a seat vacant if an MP went against his party’s stance or failed to follow the orders of his party whip when voting in the Dewan Rakyat.

What it means when an opposition MP supports the prime minister

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