Malaysia PM, Opposition to Cooperate For Political Stability
(Bloomberg) -- Malaysia’s government and main opposition alliance signed an agreement on Monday to seek political stability in a nation that has seen three premiers in 18 months.
“The government is confident that this memorandum of understanding will not just set aside political differences, but can ensure the national recovery takes off holistically and inclusively,” Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob said in a statement Monday.
The pact marks Malaysia’s first ever federal-level Confidence and Supply Agreement, said Wong Chin Huat, a professor of political science at the Jeffrey Sachs Center on Sustainable Development at Sunway University in Malaysia. Ismail leads with a slim four-seat majority in parliament, and the support from the opposition could help him pass the 2022 budget -- which serves as a de facto confidence vote -- in October.
He would be even stronger if the memorandum can give him a two-third majority in a vote of confidence, according to Wong. “That would serve like a vaccine to protect him for months, even if the government makes some blunders along the way,” he said.
Malaysia’s king named Ismail the nation’s third premier in less than two years, after determining that he had the support of 114 of the country’s 220 lawmakers. That support may be put to the test as parliament reconvenes for the first time under his premiership on Monday for a 17-day sitting.
The bipartisan pact is the biggest step toward political stability for Malaysia ever since former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad abruptly resigned in February 2020. He was succeeded by Muhyiddin Yassin, whose razor thin majority crumbled last month amid infighting and a worsening Covid outbreak.
The memorandum signed Monday encompasses plans to fight Covid, parliamentary reform, transformation in governance, independence of the judiciary, and the formation of a steering committee, according to Ismail. A spokesperson from the Prime Minister’s Office said the details would be uploaded onto the parliament website.
“The transformation introduced by this government will not only lead to excellent governance in fighting Covid-19 and reviving the economy, but it will also be a catalyst for a conducive investment climate and drive economic growth,” said Ismail.
The pact comes as Malaysia’s swift vaccine rollout has allowed the country to ease virus curbs and announce perks for the inoculated. More than half of the population had been fully vaccinated as of Sunday, paving the way for the government to reach its target of reopening all economic and social sectors by the final quarter of the year.
The agreement’s impact could well extend to the next general election that is set to be held by 2023.
“Parliament will likely be hung after GE15, and this CSA gives major parties a chance to learn how to co-exist with each other and compete professionally,” said Wong. “If it works and multi-partisanship gets internalized, we don’t have to worry about more party-hopping, coalition-hopping, frequent changes of PM after GE15.”
Malaysia’s monarch on Monday welcomed the efforts toward bipartisan pact. The move could “shape a new political landscape and bring change to the country’s administrative system. It’s this kind of maturity that my people seek,” said Sultan Sultan Abdullah Sultan Ahmad in in his royal address to open the parliament session.
Still, it hasn’t been all smooth sailing. Ismail was beset with criticism from the opposition when he appointed a cabinet that largely retained the same faces from the previous government.
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