Explainer: What are the possible scenarios of a no-confidence motion in Malaysian parliament?

Explainer: What are the possible scenarios of a no-confidence motion in Malaysian parliament?

Malaysia parliament
File photo of a Parliament House session in Kuala Lumpur. (Photo: Fandy Azlan/Department of Information/AFP)

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia has been rocked by political upheaval over the last week, with the shock resignation of Dr Mahathir Mohamad, the collapse of Pakatan Harapan (PH) and Mr Muhyiddin Yassin being sworn in as the country’s eighth prime minister.

A palace statement said the king had found that Mr Muhyiddin likely commanded the support of the majority of the Members of Parliament (MPs).

This, however, is disputed by Dr Mahathir, who claims that he commands a majority. PH is said to be considering a no-confidence motion in parliament to resolve the issue.

READ: Pakatan Harapan declares 'full support' for Mahathir, who says he has the numbers to be Malaysian PM

Here’s what could happen if a motion is tabled:

PARLIAMENT NEEDS TO SIT FOR NO-CONFIDENCE MOTION TO HAPPEN

To table a no-confidence motion, it is necessary to have a sitting parliament.

It is also up to the Leader of the House (meaning the prime minister), to decide if an emergency session is necessary, Mr Ooi Heng, a parliamentary researcher and the executive director of think tank Political Studies for Change (KPRU) told CNA.

“He will then instruct the speaker to summon all the MPs, both government and opposition to attend the session,” he explained. 

The next sitting is scheduled for Mar 9. However, there are indications that Speaker Mohamad Ariff Md Yusof could postpone the session

It is within this context that Dr Mahathir has called for an early parliamentary sitting

On Sunday (Mar 1), he said: “The government can delay for as long as it likes. But if the delay is very long, then the prime minister is not endorsed by the MPs.”

If the parliament is not allowed to sit, the MPs cannot express officially whether they support Mr Muhyiddin, said the former prime minister.

Mr Lim Wei Jiet, a lawyer and Deputy Chair of the Malaysian Bar Council’s Constitutional Law Committee noted that the no-confidence vote was a Westminster parliamentary convention from which Malaysia’s parliament is modelled after.

It was also possible, said Mr Lim, that the speaker might be replaced, through a parliamentary resolution.

“They (the new government) would want to establish control over parliament proceedings,” Mr Lim said.

Mr Muhyiddin is backed by his Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia, Barisan Nasional, Parti Islam Se-Malaysia and a group of MPs led by Mr Azmin Ali, as well as others.

READ: No sacking of members who supported Azmin Ali, says Anwar

READ: So near yet so far for Malaysia's Anwar

HAS THERE BEEN A NO-CONFIDENCE VOTE BEFORE?

Mr Ooi noted that there is no precedence for a no-confidence motion being put to debate and voted upon.

According to Malaysian media reports, the closest that the parliament got to a no-confidence vote was back in October 2015. 

Mr Hee Loy Sian, then a Parti Keadilan Rakyat MP, had filed a private motion against former prime minister Najib Razak. The motion was accepted and listed as the third last item out of 28 motions.

Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, the opposition leader at that time, later resubmitted another no-confidence motion against Najib on behalf of the entire opposition coalition. The motion was also accepted and listed, but not heard by the House. 

In September that year, then speaker Pandikar Amin claimed that there is no provision in the Parliament's Standing Order which allows a MP to table a motion of no-confidence.

This was disputed by Dr Mahathir in his personal blog. He accused Mr Pandikar of ignoring the federal constitution and parliamentary process.

Citing Article 43(4) of the Constitution, Dr Mahathir said at that time if the sitting prime minister ceases to command the confidence of the majority of parliamentarians, the prime minister would have to tender the resignation of the Cabinet.

Mr Ooi explained: “For an opposition MP to file a motion of no-confidence against the incumbent prime minister, he or she has to submit the motion with 14 days’ notice to parliament. If the motion is accepted, it will be entered into the House’s Order of Business.”

“But as this is a private motion, government business will take precedence,” he added.

POSSIBLE SCENARIOS

If the speaker chooses to deal with the private motion before government business, Mr Ooi said there are three possible scenarios.

If there are more than 111 MPs (out of the total of 222) who vote in favour of the no-confidence motion, the prime minister has two options. 

Firstly, the prime minister can resign and the king could appoint a new prime minister. 

Secondly, the prime minister can request for the king to dissolve parliament, paving the way for a general election, said Mr Ooi.

READ: Muhyiddin Yassin - Malaysia’s veteran political survivor

Lastly, the king could withhold his consent to dissolve parliament. In this scenario, the opposition may seek an audience with the king to show that it has the majority to form a new government. 

“It all depends on the king,” Mr Ooi noted.

Meanwhile, those in the ruling coalition also have the option of tabling a vote of confidence motion.

A minister or lawmaker from the ruling coalition can submit a vote of confidence motion supporting the prime minister. 

A minister’s motion would require just seven days’ notice, or if the speaker is satisfied by the minister’s representation that the motion should be expedited in the name of public interest, a day’s notice would also suffice, according to parliament’s standing rules. 

Source: CNA/jt

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