Will Najib lose Budget 2016 vote? Not likely, observers say

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 17 ― Pakatan Harapan is not expected to succeed in getting Budget 2016 blocked to signal a loss of confidence in Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s leadership as lawmakers from the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition would not risk losing federal power to support such a bid, several politicians and pundits said.

Those who spoke to Malay Mail Online also pointed out that the opposition bloc, torn apart recently by internal politics and unresolved disputes over ideological differences, have not really proven themselves to be a viable alternative to the current Najib administration.

As such, they said whether or not PAS chooses to abstain from the Budget 2016 vote was immaterial as the Islamist party only has 14 seats in the Dewan Rakyat, having ceded some of its numbers to the newly-formed Parti Amanah Negara (Amanah).

Amanah, which has six MPs, is currently part of the Pakatan Harapan umbrella along with allies DAP and PKR and collectively, the parties occupy 72 seats in the 222-seat Dewan Rakyat. BN holds a simple majority with 134 MPs while the remaining two seats in the House are occupied by one lawmaker from opposition-friendly PSM and one independent MP.

“The day for the final budget vote is on December 1. By sheer logic, we already have the numbers. It is unlikely that they can outnumber us.

“Don’t tell me 50 people from BN are going to jump over. Why should they? For what?” deputy home minister Datuk Nur Jazlan Mohamed told Malay Mail Online.

The Umno Pulai MP said that all BN MPs support Budget 2016 and by extension, Najib as prime minister, so there was no real reason to fear losing the budget vote.

Senator Datuk Dr Asyraf Wajdi Dusuki agreed with Nur Jazlan, saying that the federal opposition’s attempts to vote down the budget is an exercise in futility and was merely aimed to creating a negative perception of the government.

“They just want to create hatred and doubt towards the present government,” the deputy minister in the prime minister’s department told Malay Mail Online.

Political analyst Dr Faizal Hazis said Pakatan Harapan’s attempt to reject the budget would likely fail without the support of BN MPs.

“In a way, voting down the budget is supposed to represent a vote of no confidence against Najib, but I don’t think this is possible.

“Even if PAS chooses to side with Pakatan Harapan, on this you still need some BN MPs to support this move,” the Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia Institute of Malaysian and International Studies (IKMAS) associate professor said.

Should PAS decide to support Pakatan Harapan, the lawmakers would still need at least 27 more votes for a simple majority win in blocking Budget 2016.

Faizal added that there was no incentive for BN lawmakers to back Pakatan Harapan, as the opposition coalition has yet to show its readiness to be united or to take over federal power.

“They (Pakatan Harapan) should have gotten their act together before doing this, rejecting the budget.

“They should go back to 2008, 2013 where they used to be united under a strong coalition with centrist messages, but now they’re fighting over either hudud, Amanah or PAS,” he said.

Chief executive for think-tank Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs Wan Saiful Wan Jan said that Malaysian MPs are typically very “domesticated” and rarely challenge their party leadership’s directives or policies.

“Independent thinking and independent actions are rare, in both BN and Pakatan.

“In BN it is particularly unique because those who show signs of being able to think are quickly promoted and then the promotion makes them docile again. So I suspect it would be another ‘business as usual’ day,” Wan Saiful told Malay Mail Online.

Pakatan Harapan leaders have insisted that a rejection of the budget would be seen as a vote of no confidence against Najib.

In such an event, they said Najib would either have to table an alternative budget or step down and pave the way for the formation of a new federal Cabinet — two eventualities they said they were prepared for.

PAS lawmakers recently said they will abstain from voting on Budget 2016, with Pasir Mas MP Nik Mohamad Abduh Nik Abdul Aziz claiming that while the budget was structured to protect the ruling party’s interest, it would also cover the needs of Malaysians in general.

Putrajaya’s Budget 2016 made it to its second reading yesterday, despite efforts by the opposition over the past few weeks to convince backbenchers to vote against the budget as a show of no confidence in PM Najib.

The House voted 128 to 74 in favour of passing the budget’s first reading, after a marathon day of winding up speeches by six ministers to round up the list of 31 ministers responding to points raised during the debate.