Going straight to the point. The offers made by the prime minister to the opposition is not about forming a unity government.
I need to say this as there are folks in several WhatsApp chat groups which I am part of seem to think so.
Unity government and the likes of it, wasn’t what Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin was driving at when he appeared live on national television late Friday Aug 13.
Call it extending the olive branch, fine, but he was merely, or actually, reaching across the aisle to the opposition to work together.
For the rakyat? Well, that’s what he is claiming. Many see his reason differently.
Bipartisan cooperation with the opposition is what he wants, meaning if he gets the cooperation he is seeking for, he remains prime minister, Perikatan National coalition which he leads remains government. And the opposition remains, well, opposition.
The offer to make the Opposition Leader to enjoy the perks of a senior minister does not change anything. The Opposition Leader would still be outside government.
How to establish the bipartisan cooperation? By the opposition supporting the confidence vote motion in Parliament come September.
Of course, there are mouth-watering offers which Muhyiddin has promised to deliver, including reforms which the Pakatan Harapan had always wanted but somehow did not manage to achieve during its 22 months’ rule of the country.
I would not go into the so-called offers as many of you would have read it by know – considering the media play given.
But I need to say the first reaction by the opposition and many political analysts was – “too little, too late”.
Activist Nathaniel Tan puts it nicely: Muhyiddin is a day late and a dollar short.
It’s no secret that the prime minister has always had trust issues with the rakyat. Big time trust deficit. Anything being offered now is seen suspiciously.
Many see Muhyiddin’s latest move as his desperate attempt to stay in power having lost whatever slim majority in Parliament he had.
And Muhyiddin’s move in calling for bipartisan support is seen as an admission that he no more commands majority support.
However, according to Muhyiddin, he has the responsibility of not allowing kleptocrat group to seize power if the current political turmoil is not resolved immediately. Hence his bipartisan support proposal.
But detractors are quick to remind all and sundry Muhyiddin has no problem working hand in glove with the so-called kleptocrats in toppling the Pakatan Harapan government via the infamous Sheraton Move back in February last year.
And the irony now is, the support he is craving for at present include from those accused of being kleptocrats!
Nonetheless, his offer to the opposition has put his allies in Umno and PAS in a spot as both have proudly pushed the ‘No Anwar, No DAP’ narrative.
But now, Muhyiddin himself has no qualms in welcoming his allies’ so-called sworn enemies.
Anyway. it is no surprise (should I say expected) that the opposition has rejected Muhyiddin’s offers as as soon as the offers were made.
To them, Muhyiddin has no legal standing to make offers in the first place.
And the opposition has even framed the prime minister’s offers as bribery. Reports have been lodged with the police and MACC.
Here’s the bottomline. The prime minister has no choice but step down. Talk to law experts that’s what they tell you. They all say in accordance with the laws of the land, Muhyiddin ought to step down now.
I would say a substantial number of the rakyat concur. Never mind the opposition.
Lawyers are saying the prime minister cannot remain in office and seek a confidence vote after “conceding” the loss of majority support.
Article 43(4) of the Federal Constitution is being cited any times currently. The article stipulates two options for a prime minister who ceases to command majority support, i.e. to call for fresh election or resign along with the entire cabinet.
The first option is almost impossible considering the pandemic we are facing. Therefore resignation is the only option.
Meantime, lawyer Haniff Khatri Abdulla is quoted by Malaysiakini as saying Muhyiddin cannot choose to remain in office using the excuse that no other MPs have so far proven they receive majority support to be appointed the next prime minister.
“That is the absolute discretion of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong. The prime minister must only decide whether to request for Parliament dissolution and that if the request is denied, to resign,” said Haniff.
As for the anti-Muhyiddin bloc, they need to decide who among them is to be prime minister should or when Muhyiddin steps down.
Decide they must, and fast.
(Mohsin Abdullah is a veteran journalist and now a freelancer who writes about this, that and everything else.)