The Days After The Vote of No-Confidence

Posted on October 24, 2015

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Prime Minister Najib’s disablement of investigations into the 1MDB scandal and the silencing of critics has all but reinforced public perception that the allegations of corruption made by the Wall Street Journal, Sarawak Report, Tun Mahathir and the opposition are true.

The impact on the country is far-reaching, destroying the confidence of both local and foreign investors at a time of depressed oil and commodity prices, it is driving down the value of the Ringgit and thus raising the cost of living for the people and cost of production for industries. The longer Najib remains in power, the more dire the situation would be and it is not unreasonable to say that to save the country, Najib must be removed. But how?

In most countries, where the concept of honour is understood and valued, the wiff of financial scandal would be sufficient to trigger a resignation of political office-holders. But not so in Malaysia. RM2.6 billion deposited into the personal accounts of the Prime Minister is no big deal. There is no shame, no honour and so far, no action.

And there doesn’t seem to be any independent bodies that has the will or authority to deal with this situation. Even the statement from the Conference of Rulers calling for closure and prosecution of the guilty raised little more than an eyebrow. The only mechanism left is Parliament, the ultimate body of authority in our parliamentary democracy.

Even the most optimistic political observers would admit that to oust Najib via the no-confidence vote or the rejection of the Budget is a long shot. But it must surely be worth a shot if for nothing else, it is the right thing to do. An attempt to reject Najib would also register for posterity in the Parliament’s record those who by their support for Najib are complicit in the ruination of Malaysia.

For a vote of no-confidence to succeed, there has to be a simple majority of those present. Assuming that all Members of Parliament were present, that would mean having 112 votes out of the total of 222 seats. The Opposition, including PAS, has only 88 MPs, that means 24 are needed from the ruling coalition Barisan Nasional to crossover for the vote. Another configuration would be for 47 BN MPs to abstain or absent themselves during the vote or a combination of crossing over and absenteeism.  

If by some miracle that it happens and Najib is forced to resign, what would likely happen in the next few days and months after?

In any deal making between the Opposition pact and the renegade BN Parliamentarians, it would be very unlikely that the next PM would come from the Opposition. It would simply be unacceptable to Barisan Nasional who still holds the majority of seats. It would in all probability be either the former Deputy PM Muhyiddin Yassin who is still the Deputy President of UMNO or the even the elderly MP for Gua Musang, Tengku Razaleigh.

With the 14th General Election due latest by August 2018, the new Cabinet which could comprise of politicians from both divide would have to take on the mode of a transitional government.  The new PM and his Cabinet’s top priority should be to restore lost confidence in the system by implementing institutional reforms as proposed by Bersih 2.0. In exchange for lending their support to oust Najib, the Opposition could negotiate for these reforms to prevent future Prime Ministerial corruptions and to level the playing field for the coming election.

The 10-point institutional reforms are:

  1. Make the Election Commission accountable to the Parliament, with EC members nominated by parliamentary parties based on vote share.
  2. Clean up the electoral rolls, ensuring level-playing field in contestation, and eliminating malapportionment and gerrymandering before the next General Election.
  3. The role of the PM and that of the Minister of Finance must be held by two different persons.
  4. Introduce parliamentary reform to enable more effective scrutiny of the Executive and more consultative law-making.
  5. Make the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) a constitutional body answerable to Parliament and imbue the MACC with both investigative and prosecutorial powers.
  6. Restrict the role of Attorney-General (AG) to providing legal advice to the Federal Government, with the prosecutory power transferred to an independent office of Director of Public Prosecutions.
  7. Establish Freedom of Information (FOI) Laws at the federal and state levels.
  8. Make public declaration of assets – including those of spouses — mandatory for all members of the Cabinet, all deputy ministers and all officers holding top offices in government and government-linked companies (GLCs).
  9. Abolish draconian laws, such as the Sedition Act 1948; Prevention of Terrorism Act 2015; Peaceful Assembly Act 2012; Security Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012; and amend provisions of Penal Code which violate freedoms and rights.
  10. Establish an Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC) to depoliticise the Royal Malaysia Police and turning it from a violator of human rights into a protector of human rights.

Such a move would immediately restore confidence in the Government and in the short-term at least, trigger a rebound of the Ringgit and stem the outflow of capital and talents. There are still many fundamental policy reforms that would be required to rebuild the nation but that would probably be the responsibility of the new Government formed after GE14 when it has legitimately received the mandate of the people.

It was said that politics makes strange bedfellows and we have seen that in Malaysian politics in recent history. One day you can be crossing swords with your arch-rival and the same person can be your key ally the next day. For this moment in our history, we need these leaders to come together, united with a common desire to save this country from total and irreversible collapse.

Dare we hope that such leaders would arise in this Parliamentary session and that beyond ousting Najib they would work together to put this nation on the right footing for peace and prosperity?

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