Malaysian Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim breezed through a vote of confidence in parliament on Monday, sealing his legitimacy exactly a month after the general election returned a hung parliament.
The win means that – at least for now – Malaysia won’t have to look for a fifth PM in four years, giving the country an appearance of political stability amid an economic downturn and looming recession.
Anwar won the confidence motion with a voice vote on day one of his first parliamentary session as prime minister after he secured a cooperation agreement last week with smaller blocs that make up his government.
“Today’s government presented a motion of confidence on the prime minister and succeeded in proving it had the support of the majority in parliament,” Anwar wrote on Twitter after securing the win late Monday.
“Now is the time to work and execute the changes that the people want.”
The newly appointed House Speaker, Johari Abdul, had called for a voice vote after the house heard debate on the vote of confidence for three hours. A voice vote requires lawmakers to state their support by saying “yes” or “no,” with the loudest answer considered the majority vote.
Anwar had said late last month that he was determined to call for a vote of confidence to prove his government’s legitimacy when the new parliament convened for its first session under the new government.
After the king appointed Anwar as PM on Nov. 24, Perikatan Nasional coalition chairman and former Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin, another contender for the post, had insisted that Anwar prove his support in parliament.
During the debate Monday, opposition lawmakers questioned Anwar’s legitimacy, the support he had to be PM, and the agreement he had signed Friday with the party leaders in his coalition government.
Hamzah Zainudin, from Perikatan, called the confidence motion a gimmick as it was taking place after the agreement had been signed between all the parties in Anwar’s government.
“This [agreement] violates the federal constitution’s parliamentary democratic principles,” Hamzah said while debating the motion of confidence.
“When you sign a contract to force someone to vote for you, we think you did so under pressure. It is not fair for some MPs. It takes the freedom to speak, discuss and take the rights guaranteed in a democratic system,” he said.
Later, the communication’s director of Anwar’s Pakatan Harapan coalition rebutted those allegations.
“Some of those who said it were parties in drafting the [memorandum of understanding with Pakatan Harapan during Ismail Sabri’s time … they were members of the committee that drafted the agreement. They never said anything when similar clauses were laid out [back then],” said Fahmi Fadzil, who is also the minister of Communications and Digital.
“I did not then hear any claim of unconstitutionality or [of] us being authoritarian. They are political hypocrites,” said Fahmi.
He was talking about a pact signed between Anwar’s Pakatan and the previous Ismail Sabri Yaakob government in 2021 to avoid political instability, which was similar to the agreement signed Friday.
The signatories of last week’s agreement were Barisan Nasional, Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS), Gabungan Rakyat Sabah (GRS), Pakatan Harapan and Warisan. The agreement called for all the signatories’ MPs to back Anwar in the confidence vote and in all major policies in parliament.
“This will enable the unity government to address any issue in parliament and beyond with one voice. … Our focus will be on good governance and to spearhead a more convincing economic growth,” Anwar had told reporters Friday after the signing.
Anwar is the fifth prime minister since 2018. Two previous governments in the recent past fell after they lost majority support.
The Nov. 19 general election produced a hung parliament with Anwar’s coalition winning 82 seats, followed by Muhyiddin Yassin’s Perikatan Nasional coalition, which won 73. Neither bloc had the majority of 112 seats required to form a government, and other coalitions and parties dithered about allying with either side.
Following a four-day impasse, King Sultan Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah stepped in and named Anwar as the head of Malaysia’s new “unity government,” supported by Barisan, GPS, GRS and Warisan.
Perikatan ‘working hard to destabilize the government’
Meanwhile, political analysts said Anwar’s win in the confidence motion showed he had legitimate suprt in parliament.
“It is clear that Anwar Ibrahim has solid and real support. No one can dispute that as seen in the in parliament today,” political analyst Jayum. A Jawan told BenarNews.
Jayum, a fellow at the Academy of Sciences Malaysia, said by securing majority support, the government can pass significant legislation without opposition or the need to lobby for support.
Anwar followed the correct democratic procedure in establishing his majority in parliament and that makes his government legitimate, said Azmil Mohd Tayeb, of Universiti Sains Malaysia.
“Perikatan Nasional has to accept the result and start acting as a credible opposition,” Azmil of Universiti Sains Malaysia told BenarNews.
Perikatan MPs’ behavior in parliament during the debate on the confidence motion was harshly criticized by academic Bridget Welsh, from the University of Nottingham Malaysia.
“[They] engaged in a personal attack on the Prime Minister,” Welsh told BenarNews.
“This shows that Perikatan is unwilling to accept the result and is working hard to destabilize the current government.”
Other analysts had also earlier questioned Perikatan’s tactics.
They had noted that during the election Perikatan fought a race-based campaign, which featured allegedly divisive speeches, to win over a large swathe of ethnic Malay votes.
The bloc counts the fundamentalist Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS) among its constituent parties.
According to a local not-for-profit journalism initiative, PAS President Abdul Hadi Awang was “one of the key amplifiers of divisive, racist, intolerant and hate-based narratives,” local media reported last month.