What happened at the Dewan Rakyat on Nov 26 when Budget 2021 was passed at the policy stage by a voice vote?
Pokok Sena MP Mahfuz Omar (Amanah) requested for a block vote and 12 other MPs stood up in support but the number fell short of the 15 MPs required to get the block vote. Opposition MPs sat on their bottoms, confused because they received a message from Opposition Leader and PKR president and PH leader Anwar Ibrahim telling them to let the Budget pass the policy stage.
After the Dewan Rakyat session ended, Anwar told reporters that he had sent the directive to not be “seen as going against” Finance Minister Tengku Zafrul Tengku Abdul Aziz after the concessions the latter made to give more aid to farmers, fishermen and other disadvantaged groups.
Anwar might have felt that if he were to go against the Budget, it might backfire on him in his Port Dickson constituency where fishermen and farmers form a major component of his support base. If that were the case he could have just told the PH MPs that he wasn’t going to reject the Budget but they were free to stand up for the block vote. Problem solved. But he didn’t do that.
Or, he might not have wanted to go against the finance minister because he didn’t want to be seen going against the Agong whose support he would need should he form a majority coalition sometime in the near future. This is the lamest of his reasons because, in the Dewan Rakyat, the MP is accountable to the people who voted him in. No one else matters.
On this count, Anwar demonstrated a miserable lack of leadership. He thought of his constituency of semi-rural/semi-urban constituents who may not understand the implications of defeating Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin’s Budget and may only understand what help they can get. That is understandable but Anwar failed to think of ALL the other urban constituencies the majority of MPs represent in PH.
It is these constituencies who provide the bulk of taxpayers’ money. They are driving the economy and they do not begrudge the money spent wisely on those who need it. But, they are deeply concerned that the rule of law applies in this country and that their representatives exercise their constitutional rights and vote on their behalf.
The urban voters don’t want a backdoor government and they want it removed constitutionally. They are totally against a government that they didn’t vote for using their money and the Budget should be defeated on that ground.
Urban voters may not be dependent on the government but they understand the importance of upholding parliamentary democracy and in fighting for the latter they are fighting on behalf of ALL Malaysians and it should be recognised.
The fact that Anwar did not recognise and respect the urban voters’ demands and stopped their MPs from voting on their behalf is inexcusable if it isn’t downright sabotage of voters’ rights. If the block vote was approved, who knows we might have a new legitimate government today. But, thanks to Anwar, an illegitimate government continues to function.
Perhaps, the real reason why Anwar stopped the block vote was that he was given to understand that his chums in Umno, namely the court cluster group he is said to be negotiating with to form a majority coalition, among whom are those facing criminal charges in court, were not going to reject the Budget. Not having the numbers to form a government, Anwar may have thought of buying more time to form a coalition with them or others.
Surely, Anwar isn’t all that naive? By now he should know that the Umno rebels are all talk and hot air who only threaten as a bullying tactic to get their demands and who will be appeased by a few token concessions to save face as long as they are allowed to stay in the government.
These are also the very same people that PH toppled and now Anwar wants to join forces with them so that he can become prime minister? He has to face reality and accept the fact that he is never going to form a coalition with them!
Anwar needs to understand what Umno veteran Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah knows: that Muhyiddin’s government is an illegitimate government that refuses to seek legitimacy by facing a no-confidence vote and, therefore, everything it does is illegitimate, including the tabling of the Budget. The only way to get rid of such a government is to defeat the Budget it has no right to table.
That is the only thing left now for the MPs to do. Defeat the Budget and install a legitimate government. Anwar needs to forge a coalition with other more reliable partners even if it means he can’t be prime minister.
If he can’t do that, then, it is time for PH coalition partners DAP and Amanah to put their foot down so that an alternative coalition can be formed. If he can’t go along with that then he should take a backseat and let someone else who can take over.
All Opposition effort must be to defeat Budget 2021. It would be ideal if an alternative coalition can take over the government. If that fails, there should be no general elections and no emergency. The Agong should be advised to appoint an interim prime minister with a much smaller Cabinet to govern until the next general elections.