A fragile government does not bode well for Malaysians


JUST look around us. The country is not doing well at all. To say otherwise will be a disservice, a delusion almost.

Many businesses, five-star hotels and restaurants have closed permanently. Some of them had existed for decades, but the ravages of Covid-19 and the country’s political instability, were too much to bear.

Sure, Covid-19 takes most of the blame, but if the nation is to recover from the aftermath of the devastating pandemic, we need a stable government and a strong leader with a solid political support base to take charge of the recovery.

The current government is certainly not up to it. It is too fragile. The prime minister is too weak, politically speaking, of course. He may have gained popularity in recent months, at least according to 3,415 respondents of a Merdeka Center survey recently, who are mostly happy with the government’s success in containing the spread of Covid-19, thus far.

Whether the opinions of the 3,415 respondents who represent 0.01% of the Malaysian population are reflective of the views of the majority of Malaysians, is best left to one’s imagination.

But the prime minister’s popularity doesn’t feed the rakyat nor is it a consideration for a foreign investor intending to expand his business here in Malaysia.

We need a prime minister who stays focused on the nation’s economic recovery, not one who is constantly looking over his shoulder to see which MP is leaving his party or his loose coalition.

We cannot have a prime minister with a burdened mind or one who is too busy lobbying for support and to get MPs to cross over to his side.

Take a good look at the stock market’s performance. Foreign funds have left in droves. Capital flight is an every-day thing.

Foreign investors are shying away as they are unsure about how long this government will survive and what policy changes the next one will bring. Investors need to decide. They can’t wait very long.

The current government has a majority of three or at the most four Parliament seats, no one can tell for sure. Getting a Bill or a motion passed in the Dewan Rakyat has become a nightmare.

We saw how the motion to replace the Speaker in July was almost defeated. The government survived by a mere two votes. If the motion was not passed, the government would have come crumbling down.

The past few weeks saw party whips literally calling every MP to come to the Dewan Rakyat each time a Bill was put to vote. Even the Speaker had to chip in to help at one occasion, by holding off voting until MPs made it back to the House from wherever they were.

If three or four backbenchers were taken ill at any one time, some of the Bills would not have seen daylight.

Dr Mahathir Mohamad had said in May that the opposition would reject Bills proposed by the government unless a no-confidence vote against Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin was allowed. As the vote was never presented, we can assume that Pakatan Harapan will continue to oppose Bills and government motions.

In October, The Supply Bill 2021 or commonly known as the Budget will be tabled at the Dewan Rakyat. After a few weeks of debate, the Bill will be put to a vote.

Again, if just five backbenchers are indisposed on the day the vote is taken, it will be defeated.

If that happens, the government, not having a single sen to spend, will be crippled. No salaries for the civil servants. Everything comes to a standstill.

Inevitably, a vote of no-confidence against the prime minister and his government will follow. That will be embarrassing for Muhyiddin.

Strong mandate

Given all these risks, it will be advisable for the prime minister to dissolve Parliament immediately to pave the way for the 15th General Election (GE15).

We need a government with a strong mandate from the rakyat. The current one is too fragile and too weak to last until 2023.

A prime minister who is totally dependent on the support of every MP and the political parties he is allied with, has no choice but to please everyone.

An example of this is the prime minister’s failure to act against a minister who defied the 14-day quarantine rule upon returning from overseas. The minister was not even issued a reprimand, despite putting other people’s lives at risk.

A 72-year-old widow, however, was fined RM8,000 and jailed a day for the same offence. What added to the public ire was the fact that this was her first offence.

The fact that the prime minister did not act against the minister was viewed by many as a serious weakness. It was clear he was held to ransom. Netizens bemoaned it for days on end.

PAS and Umno who form the informal Perikatan Nasional (PN) government together with Muhyiddin’s PPBM, are well aware of this. Together they will face the next general election as Muafakat Nasional.

Both Umno and PAS have already said they are in favour of an early election. But since nothing has happened, it is about time Umno President Ahmad Zahid Hamidi and his PAS counterpart Abdul Hadi Awang begin insisting for it.

In fact, they should set a deadline. They should send a clear message to the prime minister that as larger partners in the informal coalition, their voices matter.

Their support for PN should have its limits. Already, Umno grassroots are unhappy.

The author is the former group managing editor of Media Prima Television Networks.

The views expressed are those of the author.

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