As the hours tick down to a crucial vote on 26 Nov 2020 in the Malaysian Parliament, the latest coalition government led by Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin is on tenterhooks as its eight-month plus reign may end abruptly if elected representatives fail to pass its debut annual budget proposed for 2021.
With just a slim 112-110 MPs majority for the Perikatan Nasional coalition, the key swing vote is held by the block of MPs from United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) – which has already indicated it would rather have a fresh general election and hinted it may withhold its support for the 2021 Budget.
So far, the UMNO block has maintained its support for the Muhyiddin-led coalition – especially after strongly worded ‘advice’ from the Agong – Malaysia’s largely ceremonial king who is elected from 9 state sultans for 5-year terms – for the country’s administration to remain focused on battling the Covid-19 pandemic and economic impact, rather than triggering more political upheavals.
The Agong had especially ‘advised’ parliamentary MPs to ensure Budget 2021 gets passed so that necessary resources can be brought to play in the nation’s Covid-19 battle – but rumors have it that the UMNO block has split into factions, which may just dismantle Muhyiddin’s razor-thin majority.
These rumors have become so widespread that even key civil servants have spoken up in support of MPs voting to approve Budget 2021 – including Inspector-General of Police Abdul Hamid Bador and Health director-general Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah, who reportedly said: “At a time when the country is grappling with the Covid-19 pandemic, MOH (Health Ministry) is confident that they understand the current situation, that is the pandemic and country’s financial situation, and hope that the MPs will vote wisely.”
As to the split UMNO factions intending to shake up the government status quo, one is reportedly made up of those now facing a string of corruption charges – which they aim to sweep under the carpet if they’re able to gain top administration control.
One of them is said to be former prime minister Najib Razak, who is facing still more charges of corruption after already convicted in July – most of them linked to the 1Malaysia Development Board (1MDB) debacle. Najib openly sided with self-proclaimed prime minister-in-waiting and Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim – who failed in yet another bid to bring down the government last month.
Because of the Agong’s ‘advice’, other UMNO MPs have become hesitant to openly deny support for Muhyiddin as this would be seen as insulting the royal house – which is a hallowed institution, as is the case in most Asian countries. And so, a number of UMNO MPs may supposedly call in sick during this crucial Budget 2021 parliamentary vote – which must be done in person – effectively negating Muhyiddin’s majority
How the chips may fall will be known in the next 24 hours – will Muhyiddin become known as the shortest-serving Malaysian prime minister or will he pull off yet another surprise?