KUALA LUMPUR – Malaysia’s King Sultan Abdullah Ahmad Shah has consented to the government not pursuing a confidence vote in Parliament to test Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob’s majority, the country’s de-facto law minister said on Tuesday (Sept 7).
Datuk Seri Dr Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar said the King gave his consent during a recent audience with Datuk Seri Ismail.
“This was informed by the Prime Minister during the very first Cabinet meeting,” Mr Wan Junaidi told a press conference in the country’s administrative capital Putrajaya.
Mr Wan Junaidi also said that he was of the opinion that a confidence vote was not necessary at the moment, as Mr Ismail had been appointed by Sultan Abdullah just less than a month ago and this was after an extensive process where the King verified Mr Ismail’s support among Members of Parliament.
“In such a short period, I don’t see how (the MPs) can change their stance, and based on this, the King has consented to not having the confidence motion,” said the de-facto law minister.
Mr Ismail was backed by a majority of 114 MPs, paving the way for Sultan Abdullah to appoint him as Malaysia’s ninth prime minister on Aug 20 following the resignation of Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin. Parliament has 222 seats, two of which are vacant.
Two days before Mr Ismail was appointed and at the height of a political crisis in the country, the King had decreed that any new prime minister should immediately test his majority through a confidence vote in Parliament.
Mr Ismail’s predecessor, Mr Muhyiddin, had never called for one despite doubts over his majority. Mr Muhyiddin was eventually forced to quit after some Umno MPs withdrew their support from his government.
Umno was the biggest party in the previous Perikatan Nasional government and Mr Ismail, an Umno vice-president, served as deputy prime minister under Mr Muhyiddin.
Like his predecessor, the new prime minister leads a fragile alliance of three coalitions in Parliament – the Perikatan Nasional, Barisan Nasional, which includes Umno, and Gabungan Parti Sarawak.
Mr Wan Junaidi’s remarks came days after the country’s Attorney-General Idrus Harun issued a statement saying that there was no need to test Mr Ismail’s majority in Parliament and that such a motion could override the powers of the monarch to appoint a prime minister.
He also said on Saturday that such a move would not be in line with the federal Constitution.
Malaysia’s Parliament is set to sit next week for the first time since Mr Ismail was appointed. A confidence motion is not listed under the agenda, according to the preliminary order paper for the House.
Mr Ismail previously met and came to an agreement with opposition leaders for a historic confidence and supply agreement (CSA) between both sides of the political divide. But opposition leaders say the agreement is now being jeopardised by the government’s change of tone regarding the confidence vote.
The Straits Times has reported that Mr Ismail is backing away from a confidence motion as the main opposition Pakatan Harapan bloc is only offering to abstain from any confidence vote under the terms of the CSA.
This would mean that in the event of any confidence vote, Mr Ismail will likely at most garner only 114 votes from the MPs who had backed his bid for the premiership when they met the King last month.