Malaysian PM Anwar: Will call for confidence vote at next parliament session

Noah Lee and Iman Muttaqin Yusof
2022.11.28
Kuala Lumpur
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Malaysian PM Anwar: Will call for confidence vote at next parliament session Malaysia’s Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim speaks to the media after chairing the Pakatan Harapan Presidential Council Meeting in Petaling Jaya, Malaysia, Nov 28, 2022.
[S. Mahfuz/BenarNews]

Malaysian Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim said Monday he was determined to call for a vote of confidence to prove his government’s legitimacy when the new parliament convenes for its first session on Dec. 19.

After the king appointed Anwar as PM last week, Perikatan Nasional chairman Muhyiddin Yassin, another contender for the post, has insisted that Anwar prove his support in parliament.

The constitution does not require a government with a clear majority to demonstrate its legitimacy in parliament, Anwar said, alluding to public comments by Ramkarpal Singh, a member of his Pakatan Harapan coalition.

“Yes, it is true Ramkarpal has used the argument about the federal constitution angle because there’s a clear majority, but I also discussed [the importance] of showing legitimacy, in terms of political perception,” Anwar told reporters after chairing a meeting of the Pakatan Presidential Council on Monday.

“So, we will continue with the vote of confidence Dec. 19,” he added.

The Nov. 19 general election produced a hung parliament with Anwar’s coalition winning 82 seats, followed by Muhyiddin’s coalition, which won 73. Neither bloc had the majority of 111 seats required to form a government, and other coalitions and parties dithered about allying with either side.

Following a four-day impasse, King Sultan Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah stepped in and named Anwar as the head of Malaysia’s new “unity government,” after holding a special meeting with fellow members of the Council of Rulers on Nov. 24.

Upon the monarch’s advise, the then-incumbent Barisan Nasional bloc, which was routed in the polls, decided to support Anwar’s Pakatan.

That evening, Muhyiddin, who had earlier said he did not want to be part of a unity government with Pakatan, demanded that Anwar prove his government’s legitimacy as soon as possible.

Risky move?

Analysts differ on whether Anwar is being overconfident about calling for a confidence vote.

Awang Azman Awang Pawi, an associate professor at the University of Malaya, said Anwar was right to be upbeat that he would sail through the vote with a majority.

“In terms of requirements, Anwar has already obtained majority support. The king and the council of Malay rulers have already met and agreed to the appointment. Perikatan meanwhile agreed to become the opposition,” Awang Azman told BenarNews.

But Oh Ei Sun, a senior fellow with the Singapore Institute of International Affairs (SIAA), believes Anwar’s is a risky move.

“In the excitement of forming his government last week, I think he was very confident that he would enjoy majority support in parliament. Therefore, he proposed this vote of confidence. But of course, things could become more fluid,” Oh told BenarNews.

“I’m not sure whether he would still indeed enjoy the majority support next month. I think it may turn out to be a risky move for him,” Oh said, noting that Malaysia’s political landscape is fragmented, so it creates uncertainty.

In the meantime, Anwar is moving quickly to name a cabinet because his government’s first order of business is to present a budget at next month’s parliamentary session.

While he is not naming a date for unveiling his cabinet, Anwar said he would form one soon after hearing the views from his government’s members.

“This is an unusual situation, as a unity government involves many parties. So, before I decide I have to hear all views,” Anwar told reporters.

The new prime minister did indicate, though, that he would keep the cabinet small.

“In previous governments, you could just keep adding in 50, 60, 70 members and if that was not enough, there would be appointments of special envoys and special advisors. I am not willing to do that,” Anwar said.

For instance, critics had described Muhyiddin’s cabinet as “bloated” when he served as PM between March 2020 and August 2021. It had 32 ministers and 38 deputy ministers.

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