MP SPEAKS | The ‘Memorandum of Understanding for Transformation and Political Stability’ signed yesterday between Pakatan Harapan and the government has brought about varied reactions from the public - some informed, but unfortunately, some misinformed.
There are those who lamented that Harapan has sold itself to the government as a result of it and we have lost the opposition. Such a conclusion, needless to say, is a result of serious misinformation.
One of the biggest mistakes or misinformation leading to such erroneous conclusions is when the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) is equated with a ‘Confidence and Supply Agreement’ (CSA).
Unfortunately, this error is made even by those who are thought of as being ‘well informed’.
A CSA and the MoU – how it differs
A CSA is an agreement made between a government - which has insufficient support to remain in power - and members of the opposition, either as individuals or as parties, to prop itself up so that the problem of lack of support is overcome.
The opposition members, party, or parties as the case may be, who enter such a CSA with the government will, in turn, get the concessions which they request for and these concessions may differ from one member of the opposition to another.
In such an agreement, the propping up of the government, which may be termed a ‘minority government’ due to its lack of majority support, is an indispensable part of the agreement.
The term ‘confidence’ refers to the support so given when such situations arise which may threaten the position of the government, such as when facing a vote of confidence or no confidence or during the vote for the passing of the budget or supply bill.
In our Malaysian context, the need for a ‘CSA’ arose when Muhyiddin Yassin lost the support of 14 Umno MPs, leading to his eventual resignation. Before he resigned, he offered several concessions to the opposition parties so that they would lend him their support should a vote of confidence, as what occurred in Perak a few months earlier, or a vote of no confidence, be tabled.
The opposition turned the offer down and he duly resigned.
The ‘Memorandum of Understanding for Transformation and Political Stability’ was not signed under such circumstances.
The current government has been declared as having a clear, albeit slim majority and is, for all intents and purposes, the government of the day.
There is no commitment on the part of Harapan to lend the government its support should it face a vote of confidence or of no confidence as a result of possible internal bickering between the member parties making up the Barisan Nasional-Perikatan Nasional coalition.
Should it lose its majority support, that is its problem and the Harapan component parties will have nothing to do with either salvaging the current leadership. or assisting in its downfall.
For all intents and purposes, the retaining of the 114 or 115 MP support which it currently enjoys is its problem, not ours.
With respect to a vote on the budget or any act which the government wishes to pass, Harapan's commitment is not to vote against it, provided it is discussed and agreed to in principle prior to it being tabled.
Not voting against the budget or any act, which was earlier discussed and agreed to in principle prior to it being tabled, is in no way “surrendering our independence or submitting to the will of the government” as some allege.
If any surrendering or submitting is being done, it can equally be claimed that the “surrendering or submitting” is on the part of the government, and to the will of the opposition, as the agreement of the opposition is to be sought. Such a practice was never heard of before as in all previous occasions the government would do as it pleased.
Such concessions as discussed and agreed to in the MOU are clearly very meaningful to Harapan and there is no reason for Harapan to reject the offer.
While the concessions on the part of the government are very meaningful and substantial, the concessions on the part of Harapan, if any, are minimal. For, we are still the opposition, and our right to oppose whatever actions of the government which are deemed to be contrary to good governance is acknowledged and in no way compromised.
Why did we not accept the CSA offered by Muhyiddin?
The reason as to why we did not accept Muhyiddin's offer is therefore obvious. It would have been a CSA in the true meaning of the word.
We would have been propping up Muhyiddin as the prime minister by giving him the required numbers to cover for the loss of the 14 from Umno.
We would be lending him our support and such an act, given his treachery and complete failure as the prime minister, would be unacceptable. If even his people declared him a failure (kerajaan gagal) and do not wish to support him, then why should we?
Secondly, at that time we had the moral responsibility to try to get back the government, if possible, and some believed that it would be possible as we were promised the necessary support.
As it turned out, loyalty among thieves and religious bigots runs thicker than the desire to see the people’s mandate respected. As such Muhyiddin’s fall only led to the appointment of another member of the pack, namely Ismail Sabri Yaakob.
Given the experience, it is meaningless for us to be a party to such attempts again in the future as it will only serve the interests of factions within their grouping.
Leadership will never be passed to Harapan as the raison d’etre behind the formation of the (PN) coalition is to deny Harapan the government. This rationale was revealed by Muhyiddin when he said that he had to resign in order to prevent the return of Harapan.
What happens if Ismail Sabri loses support?
Ismail Sabri then may still fall, given the terms of the MOU. Those from the 115 MPs can openly declare that they no longer support him as was done by ‘Zahid and gang’ towards Muhyiddin.
Would Ismail Sabri have our automatic support then? There is nothing in the MOU that obliges us to support him. He may fall or he may then try to offer a CSA.
If he falls, we will have a repeat of what we had a few weeks ago but then it would be clear to all that it is due to their internal bickering and has nothing to do with Harapan.
And if he then offers a CSA to Harapan? We cross the bridge when we get there.
However, given the short period left before the 15th general election is to be called, I would be inclined to say that Harapan would most likely reject it again and capitalise on the fact that the rakyat, in general, would be so upset with the internal bickering and politicking of the BN-PN coalition that we would win the GE15 hands down.
First and foremost, let us be clear: we have in no way been compromised! We did not promise support for Ismail Sabri as the prime minister nor have we promised to support him should he lose his majority. Nor have we given unconditional support to any laws they wish to pass or the budget.
Nor have we promised to be silent in the face of any form of misuse of power or injustice or corruption.
We remain “His Majesty’s Loyal Opposition”, as they say in the UK, and will continue to be so until the next (general) election.
This is the case as there is no CSA with Ismail Sabri but an MOU for Transformation and Political Stability. This MOU is beneficial to us and the rakyat.
Should there be any instability during this period up to the next general election, when the term of this MOU expires, it would be due to their own doing and we will no longer be a party to it.
The 115 MPs have proven to be like the proverbial “birds of a feather that flock together” and the unseating of Ismail Sabri would only put another from the flock in the PM’s seat.
We leave the politicking to those groups in BN and PN as that has been their past-time since the 'Sheraton Move’.
We, on our part, through this MOU, will give our full concentration to the efforts of fighting the pandemic and reviving the economy while assisting the rakyat with their jobs and livelihood.
KHALID SAMAD is Shah Alam MP and director of Amanah.
The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.