Left in a precarious position, Muhyiddin and his Cabinet to consider options

R. Loheswar And Syed Jaymal Zahiid
·5-min read
Some observers and analysts have pointed out that while Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin failed in his bid to call for a state of emergency, he nevertheless got the nod to table the national Budget next month from the King yesterday. — Bernama pic
Some observers and analysts have pointed out that while Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin failed in his bid to call for a state of emergency, he nevertheless got the nod to table the national Budget next month from the King yesterday. — Bernama pic

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 26 — The Cabinet is expected to meet this morning amid speculation about the political future of the PM and his government, just a day after the King decreed there was no need for the Emergency rule Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin had sought to combat the Covid-19 pandemic for which critics had denounce as an excuse to hold on to power.

Muhyiddin held a late night meeting yesterday at his Damansara Heights home here with some of his ministers and closest aides after the King’s decision was announced in the evening, even as the country was roiled by rumours that he was contemplating resignation.

Ministers and aides did not stop to offer comments to waiting journalists after the meeting, but they are expected to convene a meeting this morning in Putrajaya.

The prime minister issued a statement just before midnight yesterday which did not offer any suggestions he would be quitting. In the statement, Muhyiddin thanked the King for having trust in his government.

Some observers and analysts have pointed out that while he failed in his bid to call for a state of emergency, he nevertheless got the nod to table the national Budget next month from the King yesterday.

But all this means is that once the country manages to bring the number of Covid-19 cases down, the political manoeuvring for power will continue, several analysts told Malay Mail.

“The present political situation is indeed very delicate. By advising the King to proclaim emergency but not obtaining it, what’s left of Muhyiddin’s democratic credentials has taken a big hit and his opponents would certainly take advantage of the popular discontent to try to push him over the edge,” said Senior Fellow at the Singapore Institute of International Affairs Oh Ei Sun.

“But the King’s call for the Budget to be passed would also have to be heeded by them, as feudalistic fealty remains a mainstay of Malaysian politics,” he added.

Rumours were rife from Friday that Muhyiddin would seek to invoke “emergency powers” to prop up his administration that has come under challenge from Opposition Leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim.

This is ostensibly to prevent a general election called during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Muhyiddin rushed to meet the King in Pahang on Friday which then led to a meeting of the Malay Rulers yesterday.

The Opposition had planned to table a no confidence motion against Muhyiddin at the next session of Parliament which is also when the Budget will be tabled.

A total of 16 MPs, namely 11 from Amanah and five from Parti Pejuang Tanah Air, have submitted notices to Dewan Rakyat Speaker Datuk Azhar Azizan Harun seeking to table the motion.

Some have argued that Muhyiddin’s move to get a state of emergency declared is akin to political brinkmanship but Universiti Teknologi Malaysia’s Prof Azmi Hassan does not agree.

“No, I don’t see this as brinkmanship since all is not lost either for Muhyiddin or the Opposition. On Muhyiddin’s part, the King has full confidence in how the government is dealing with the pandemic.

“On the Opposition’s part, there’s still a lot of opportunity for them to challenge Muhyiddin. As I read it (royal decree) was good acumen on the part of the King and his majesty came to that decision after careful consideration.”

UiTM incumbent of the Institution of Malay Rulers Chair Prof Shamrahayu Abd Aziz said Muhyiddin’s actions was gentlemanly as he was ready to face the consequences even though it took him to the brink.

“Because the Budget is involved, many would say what Muhyiddin did seemed like brinkmanship but that’s actually gentleman politics.

“To do what you need to do as the government, regardless of the circumstances. People may say it’s close to danger but he was brave enough to go and face the Agong without knowing the consequences.

“Besides that, there could have been other reasons for the King not to grant the emergency request but the most important thing about the palace’s statement is that the priorities now are the pandemic and a strong Budget to help the people suffering from the fallout of Covid-19,” Shamrahayu told Malay Mail.

If the vote of no confidence goes ahead, there may be a snap election.

Malaysians have seen how the recently-concluded Sabah state election led to the third wave of Covid-19 infection throughout the country.

New clusters are emerging every day as daily cases reach the high 800s.

Professor Azmi said he felt the reason the King decided not to declare a state of emergency is also because he felt the burden may be too much for the country.

“There’s no doubt that the King wants the political manoeuverings to stop for the time being to give space to Muhyiddin to handle the pandemic. And yes in a way the King reminded MPs not to use the Budget to demonstrate their lack of confidence in him since the Budget is part and parcel of the strategy to combat the coronavirus.

“But from the statement I also deduced that these political manoeuverings can continue when the pandemic is under control. So the King’s advice is not to put a stop on the no confidence vote altogether. There’s still leeway for the Opposition,” said Azmi.

Oh also said the Budget will go through but he agreed with Azmi that this impasse is only temporary.

“So some semblance of a Budget would likely be passed, but the political forces for the change of government would continue unabated, albeit in a more nuanced manner,” he said.