Asia

Malaysia's opposition welcomes PM Ismail's reform ideas in return for support

KUALA LUMPUR – Malaysia’s Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim has welcomed the parliamentary reform initiatives proposed by Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob, which could see a rare bipartisan truce if a deal is struck.

Noting that the move was a good start, Datuk Seri Anwar said the initiatives were in line with what was discussed between opposition pact Pakatan Harapan (PH) leaders and the premier.

“I welcome the prime minister’s statement yesterday on the government’s efforts to implement a number of improvements for Parliament and the government administration.

“This is a good start following my meeting with the PH leadership with the prime minister on Aug 25,” the Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) president wrote on his Facebook page on Saturday (Sept 11).

“However, discussions are still ongoing to find the best common ground in order to overcome the Covid-19 pandemic, protect the lives and safety of people, and to free the people from economic hardship due to loss of income and jobs,” he said.

In a brief statement on Friday, Datuk Seri Ismail said he is offering key reforms to the opposition in return for their support in Parliament.

His promises include: to limit the prime minister’s term to 10 years, provide the Opposition Leader the same emolument and resources as a minister, set an equal number of opposition members in Parliamentary Select Committees, bipartisan negotiation on Bills, involve opposition members in the National Recovery Council, and amend the Constitution to allow 18-year-olds to vote.

Responding to the offer, PH lawmaker and former health minister Dzulkefly Ahmad said equal funding to all MPs should be given as it is a reasonable reciprocal response to the affirmation given by the opposition to ensure stability in the government.

“PH is committed to ensuring that any question of political upheaval is stopped, we are ready to do that. This is our sacrifice to bring down the political temperature and ensure political stability.

“I think we don’t need to convince the prime minister (to give equal funding), we should know that this is an appropriate thing to do, after the sacrifice we made,” he told a forum on Friday night.

He added: “PH, specifically, will not cause any trouble. Based on that commitment, I feel it is only wise for the prime minister to respond in kind by giving us the allocation as part of the CSA.

The proposed reforms, which also include laws to stem party defections, bring the government closer to sealing a confidence and supply agreement (CSA) with the country’s main opposition bloc.

A CSA typically sees the opposition party agreeing to either abstain or support the government during key parliamentary votes – such as confidence motions and expenditure and supply Bills, in return for certain reforms or legislation agreed upon by both sides.

Despite welcoming the initiatives, Mr Anwar stressed that Mr Ismail would still need to prove his majority in the upcoming Parliament sitting that starts on Monday (Sept 13). The premier is currently leading with a slim majority in Parliament.

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“PH sees that there is still a need for the prime minister to seek a vote of confidence as soon as possible based on the King’s decree during a meeting with the heads of political parties at Istana Negara on Aug 17, in order to legitimise the fact that the prime minister commands majority support in the Dewan Rakyat (Lower House),” he said.

“It must be stressed that we want the opposition to be given commensurate treatment and we will play our role as necessary as a check-and-balance mechanism on the executive,” he said.

Mr Ismail leads a fragile alliance of three major coalitions that holds only 114 seats among Malaysia’s 220 MPs, giving him only a four-seat majority. PH has 88 lawmakers in Parliament.

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