Ismail Sabri still strong as Dewan sits for possible last meet before GE15
This, despite pressure from Umno to hold polls this year instead of completing Parliament’s full term
(The Vibes) – Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob remains secure in what could be the last Parliament meeting, to start on Monday, before the 15th general election is called.
Despite pressure from his own party Umno to hold polls this year instead of completing Parliament’s full term in July 2023, Ismail Sabri, who has been in power for 14 months to date, has the backing of enough MPs to survive any possibility of a sudden no-confidence motion, if one is called.
This possibility was raised by DAP veteran and Iskandar Puteri MP Lim Kit Siang in a September 16 statement, if Ismail Sabri continues to ignore the repeated and frantic demands from Umno, Barisan Nasional’s (BN) lynchpin, to dissolve Parliament. At one point, the pressure seemed so intense that there was speculation he would dissolve the house soon after the tabling of Budget 2023 on October 7.
Through party-hopping, alliances and numbers have changed in the composition of the Dewan Rakyat since the historic 2018 general election when BN lost federal power for the first time. The current status of the house is as follows:
Pakatan Harapan (PH), which won 113 parliamentary seats in the 2018 polls, formed the government with allies, making up 121 out of 222 seats in the Dewan Rakyat.
Since the Sheraton Move in 2020 and through further defections, PH now has 90 seats, still enough to safeguard Ismail Sabri’s position as prime minister.
Even though PH’s ties with other opposition parties may be uncertain (Muda), or fractious (Warisan, Pejuang and PSB), their combined numbers of 103, together with MPs from other parties not keen on holding elections this year, ensure Ismail Sabri’s position.
This would include Perikatan Nasional (PN), which has 29 MPs from Bersatu and 17 from PAS, and also 19 from Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS), which traditionally supports the government of the day.
This presumably gives Ismail Sabri 168 MPs “backing” him, or more specifically, willing to let Parliament complete its full term. A simple majority in the current Dewan Rakyat is 111 votes, out of 220 MPs as two seats – Batu Sapi and Gerik – are currently vacant due to the deaths of their lawmakers.
Another seat – Pekan – will be vacant in the current Parliament meeting as its MP, former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, is serving time in jail for corruption.
This makes it one less for BN, which has ministers from Umno who are not keen on GE15 this year amid the threat of monsoon floods. In fact, although PN and BN are in government together, the cabinet is said to be split over having polls this year, with objections reportedly coming from ministers from Bersatu and PAS.
In any case, with the Dewan Rakyat convening on Monday, it is too late – outside the 14 days required by the Standing Orders – for any MP to file a motion of confidence regarding the prime minister. While the house is in session, any impromptu motion brought by an MP will be subject to the approval of the speaker.
When contacted, PKR communications director Fahmi Fadzil said that no discussions have been held between PH leaders regarding Ismail Sabri, and pointed to the memorandum of understanding for political stability between PH and the government, signed last year when Ismail Sabri became prime minister, as the coalition’s “guide”.
“I wouldn’t exclude (the possibility of PH backing Ismail Sabri) but it would be to preserve political stability, not his administration,” he told The Vibes, adding that the final say on the matter depends on the PH presidential council.
All eyes continue to be trained on Ismail Sabri and his coy hints of a GE15 soon, if it will be this year, or next.