THERE are only two ways for the unity government to be legitimately toppled. The first is via parliament and the second is via the king.
To topple the government via the parliament, what is required is a no confidence motion to be raised and a minimum of 112 MPs to vote in support of the no confidence motion.
The second method is a more secretive method that only requires the Yang di-Pertuan Agong (YDPA) to believe that the Prime Minister (PM) has lost the confidence of the house.
For this to occur, someone – usually the opposition leader – needs to approach the King with a statutory declaration (SD) of at least 112 MPs preferring him to lead the government. If the King believes in the proposal put before him, His Majesty may ask the PM to step down.
Although the second method is not explicitly stated in the constitution as a legitimate way to topple the government, we have legitimised it via practice.
In the past, the state government as well as the Federal government have been changed via the SD to King method. Therefore, for all intent and purpose, we can consider the second method as a legitimate way to topple the government.
Of the two methods, if the opposition seeks to topple the government, it is more likely that they would pursue the second option.
This is because the first option has a lot of obstacles that need to be overcome in order to be executed. For one, to table the motion of no confidence in Dewan Rakyat itself is going to be difficult considering that you need the consent of the Speaker who is likely to be in favour of the government.
While the Speaker does not have the power to dismiss a motion of no confidence, he can delay it from being tabled.
If the opposition raises a no confidence motion and the Speaker delays the motion from being tabled – say for a month – the government will get wind that something is going on and use the one-month delay to frustrate the plans of the opposition to change the government.
The anti-hopping bill is also another problem that besets the opposition in its effort to overturn the government. Not many people know this but at the onset of the 2022 general elections, it was Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin who had the majority of MPs on his side and thus had the right to become the PM.
However, in accordance with the anti-hopping law, the King and the Council of Rulers decided not to count the SDs of 10 UMNO MPs who showed support to Muhyiddin. It is because the King chose not to count the SDs of the UMNO MPs who supported Muhyiddin that Anwar later emerged as the winner.
Although the anti-hopping bill is rendered moot by the move of five opposition MPs to support the government while remaining with the opposition, this is just my view. In reality, the anti-hopping law can still be enforced because the effective interpretation of the anti-hopping bill is in the hands of the government.
Logically, if opposition MPs can support the government without infringing the anti-hopping bill, government MPs should also be able to support the opposition without triggering the anti-hopping law.
If the government decides to activate the anti-hopping law to prevent government MPs from switching support to the opposition, it would be acting in a hypocritical manner. Despite this being the logical argument, personally I believe that if the choice is between being hypocritical or being in power, our politicians would have no qualms resorting to hypocrisy.
In terms of practicality, the opposition is also encumbered by the fact that it requires at least two factions to simultaneously support its bid to change the government while the unity government can afford to lose one faction and still remain in power.
If the unity government loses either the support of UMNO or GPS (Gabungan Parti Sarawak), it can still reign but the opposition needs to get both the support of UMNO and GPS to change the government.
Preference for second method
Although Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi is extremely unpopular and seen in an almost traitorous light by the UMNO and Malay grassroots, he is still the UMNO president by law.
Before the UMNO MPs can throw their support behind Muhyiddin, they will first have to rebel against their president who has clearly shown that to place Anwar in power and keep him there is the hill that he wishes to die on.
To GPS, Anwar is the gift that keeps on giving. Like Santa Claus and the tooth fairy combined, Anwar has for the past one year been showering gifts after gifts to GPS.
Although Abang Jo (Tan Sri Abang Johari Openg) and GPS initially threw their support behind Muhyiddin in the aftermath of the 15th General Election (GE15), it is unlikely that they will be persuaded to change their allegiance to the opposition considering the largesse that they have received and will continue to receive from the unity government.
Considering all this, it is likely that the opposition will attempt to topple the unity government using the second method. To execute this method, all the opposition needs is the support of the MPs expressed through SDs and a favour from the king.
According to news reports, there is already a Dubai Move set in motion where the opposition in tandem with the Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad-Tun Daim Zainuddin inner circle, have set aside RM 750 mil to buy MPs to their side.
If the Dubai Move succeeds and the opposition is able to procure the support of at least 112 MPs, all it needs is a king who will look upon the SD that is presented to him in a favourable light.
Now there are many reasons why it might be difficult for the opposition to procure the support of MPs even if it has a RM750 mil war chest. For one, Anwar also has a war chest of RM600 mil to counter the opposition, according to editor Raja Petra Kamarudin (RPK) who is the editor of Malaysia Today.
Although Anwar’s war chest is smaller, he has the advantage of heading the government of the day. MPs who dip into the coffers of the Dr Mahathir-Daim inner circle might find themselves in trouble with the law. Although Anwar’s offer might be smaller, at least it won’t trouble their sleep with a possible jail time.
Also, the next Malaysian King, Johor ruler Sultan Ibrahim Sultan Iskandar who takes office at the end of January, will likely favour Anwar’s rule.
I will go on a limb to say that when the Council of Rulers was deliberating on who to install as the next PM of Malaysia in the aftermath of GE15, it might have been the Johor Sultan who tipped the scale in Anwar’s favour.
His Highness also has often favoured the reign of Anwar. It is also an open secret that the Johor royalty family is not in favour of Dr Mahathir. Considering all this, I will again go on a limb to say that the opposition will not be able to sway the favour of the King with just the SD of 112 MPs.
They will probably need to furnish the king with 120 or 130 SDs to get the King to consent to their rule.
Today, blogger RPK has submitted a list containing the names of 121 MPs who have lost faith in Anwar’s administration. If the list is true, Anwar’s government will be facing an existential crisis in the near future.
Otherwise, I feel that the balance of probability favours the unity government to continue its reign. – Jan 9, 2024
Nehru Sathiamoorthy is a roving tutor who loves politics, philosophy and psychology.
The views expressed are solely of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Focus Malaysia.