PM Anwar will likely ‘survive’ Dec 19 confidence vote even if any unhappy with Cabinet line-up, say analysts
KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 13 — Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim earlier this month announced a smaller Cabinet of 28 ministers, which means political parties in the unity government led by him had to share the limited number of minister posts available and some did not get any such posts at all.
Could there be MPs in the unity government which may show their unhappiness — if they are disgruntled — with the Cabinet line-up on December 19, by voting against Anwar to show they have no confidence in him to be prime minister?
Political observers who spoke to Malay Mail believe that Anwar will be able to establish he has majority support when December 19 comes, and that MPs whose parties are backing Anwar are unlikely to use the vote to signal any displeasure they may have.
Arnold Puyok, deputy dean of Universiti Malaysia Sarawak’s faculty of social sciences and humanities, suggested that Anwar would have enough numbers with Barisan Nasional (BN) chairman Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi being one of the deputy prime ministers.
“With Zahid as Number 2 and a significant number of BN leaders appointed as ministers, I think Anwar would survive the December 19 vote of confidence. I do not think those who did not make it to the Cabinet would go against Anwar as I believe Anwar would find a way later on to secure their support,” he told Malay Mail.
Arnold, however, noted that appointing Zahid as a deputy prime minister and Anwar making himself the finance minister are not in line with Pakatan Harapan’s (PH) call for institutional reforms, noting that federal Opposition Perikatan Nasional would use this to continue attacking Anwar and that it is therefore important for “Anwar and his ‘reformist-minded’ Cabinet members to prove that they have the political will to make bold decisions”.
Arnold agreed the reason why Anwar would likely survive the vote was because the PH chairman already had the support from coalitions such as BN and PH to achieve the parliamentary majority required to be prime minister.
“Yes, not just BN and PH but GPS, including others who gave their support to Anwar initially. I do not think they can afford to back out now as doing so would just make them look frivolous,” he said, agreeing that even those who are not fully satisfied with the Cabinet line-up would also be unlikely to retract support from Anwar.
He agreed that the other ways in which Anwar could seek to secure support from other MPs could be through appointments for roles such as deputy ministers or in government-linked companies (GLCs), also adding: “Being politically savvy, I am sure Anwar has many options to secure support including his influence in the Finance Ministry to dispense patronage.”
To achieve majority support in the Dewan Rakyat to lead the unity government, Anwar only needs to show he has support from a minimum of 112 of the 222 MPs.
Currently, those backing Anwar’s unity government are believed to include PH which has 81 seats (including Anwar) and ally Muda which has one MP, BN (30 MPs), Sarawak-based Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS) (23 MPs), Parti Warisan Sabah (three MPs), Gabungan Rakyat Sabah (six MPs), Parti Kesejahteraan Demokratik Masyarakat (PKDM) (one MP) and Parti Bangsa Malaysia (one MP). This would easily be more than 140 MPs.
The 28 persons appointed to be ministers in Anwar’s Cabinet, however, are only from the parties of PH (15 ministers), BN (six), GPS (five) and GRS (one) and an independent minister not from any of the political parties.
Professor Jayum Jawan is seen at the IDEAS 4th Liberalism Conference in Kuala Lumpur October 19, 2019. — Picture by Miera Zulyana
Datuk Jayum Jawan, professor of political sciences at Universiti Putra Malaysia, said newly-minted prime minister Anwar has shown his mettle as a “shrewd political strategist” by calling for a vote of confidence in the first sitting of Parliament, and expected to see more of such moves as Anwar manoeuvres his unity government in the days ahead.
Jayum similarly believed that political parties under Anwar’s government would not vote against him in the December 19 vote of confidence to express any unhappiness they may have with the Cabinet selection.
“No, I don’t think they have the guts to do that. They have been given posts to feed their members who would otherwise be restless and may find ways and means to leave the ruling minority leader,” the Academy of Sciences Malaysia fellow said.
Jayum pointed out that Anwar still has lucrative positions that could be given out: “There are more positions that can be shared, but they are not as glamorous as the ministerial position; but in terms of money, these posts such as chairman of board of directors of GLCs are plenty that the PM can use to calm down those that could not be brought into the Cabinet.”
Jayum said component parties in Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS) would be unlikely to show any unhappiness — if they have any over the Cabinet line-up — by not voting or voting against Anwar on December 19, noting: “No, all components of GPS (SUPP, PRS and PDP) don’t have the guts to express their unhappiness, openly or secretly, to their GPS leader, Abang Jo. They may talk behind the back and that’s all.”
Jayum was referring to Sarawak premier Tan Sri Abang Johari Openg, who is also GPS chairman and president of GPS component party Parti Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu (PBB). Of the 23 seats won by GPS recently, PBB won the lions’ share with 14 seats.
Others would also be unlikely to use the December 19 vote of confidence to show any unhappiness they may have, he said.
“No, negotiation has been completed before Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim announced the Cabinet. They may negotiate behind, but for now, none would want to take the blame for a failed unity government,” he said, again citing the availability of other positions that can be given out to calm any unhappy MPs in the unity government and agreeing that they would wait for such roles to be dished out.
The 15th Parliament will convene for two days on December 19. It will be the first day of the meeting of the Dewan Rakyat after a general election. — Bernama pic
Jeniri Amir, an adjunct professor at Universiti Malaysia Sarawak, believes that the political parties in Anwar’s unity government are not unhappy about the Cabinet line-up, given the downsized Cabinet and the possibility of being able to contribute in other ways such as through deputy minister posts or GLC posts.
“You cannot have 100 per cent satisfaction, but I think generally the political parties and alliances are happy. I think now they realise the importance of ensuring political stability of this government, because there has been advice, ‘titah’ (decree) from the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, so they have to be seen supporting the government,” the National Council of Professors senior fellow said.
He also pointed out that the unity government needs to hit the ground running to immediately start tackling the multiple challenges faced by Malaysia, such as economic uncertainty expected next year, job opportunities and ethnic relations.
“They have been entrusted with responsibility, so they have to be seen as effective and formulate their key performance indicators (KPI) and fulfil whatever was promised. They have to put aside their differences in political philosophies, ideologies and also policies, work as a formidable team,” he added.
As for the December 19 vote, Jeniri said he is pretty sure that MPs in the unity government will support Anwar and that the vote “will settle their legitimacy issue once and for all”.
“I don’t expect any minister of Cabinet or MP to go otherwise, that’s good for Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s legitimacy of government in the eyes of the citizens and international community as a whole,” he said.
“They will listen to the president of the party or chairman of the alliance, they will be on the same page, they won’t rock the boat or go against the tide,” he said in predicting that MPs in the unity government would vote in favour of Anwar.
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