Thursday, February 25, 2021

‘Court cluster’ split on budget vote as emerging ‘sakit perut cluster’ steps up lobbying

A series of meetings have been held in the last 48 hours in a bid to convince Umno MPs to topple the government.

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There has been a split among the so-called “court cluster” MPs in the Dewan Rakyat, amid intense lobbying to get more Umno leaders to break ranks from the Perikatan Nasional (PN) bloc ahead of a crucial parliamentary vote on Thursday, MalaysiaNow has learnt.

The court cluster refers to a group of Umno leaders from the former Barisan Nasional (BN) government who are facing a string of corruption charges.

Its most recognisable member is former prime minister Najib Razak who is facing multiple charges of corruption, nine of which he was convicted of in July.

Najib openly sided with Anwar Ibrahim in the PKR leader’s failed bid to bring down the government last month.

This earned him the wrath of other Umno leaders, many of whom prefer to heed the Yang di-Pertuan Agong’s reminders not to scuttle the budget.

Tomorrow’s vote on the budget will offer another opportunity to topple the government, and it is understood that heavy lobbying has been underway to convince Umno MPs to deny critical votes for the ruling bloc, which came to power by a thin majority following Pakatan Harapan’s collapse early this year.

Enter the ‘stomach ache cluster’

But it is learnt that the campaign has so far received a cool response from Umno MPs, including among those facing charges.

“There are currently five MPs with Najib while the rest prefer to see the budget passed,” a source in Umno told MalaysiaNow.

“Apart from Zahid, there are four others who represent constituencies in Perak, Johor and Kelantan who are with Najib.”

But due to the nature of the vote where MPs can be clearly identified by a show of hands, there are indications that a group of them will call in sick on Thursday.

“The joke going on in the corridors of the Dewan Rakyat is that the court cluster might morph into the ‘kluster sakit perut’ (stomach ache cluster),” the source said.

It is understood that heavy lobbying has been underway to convince Umno MPs to deny critical votes for the ruling bloc.

“So these MPs may just complain of stomach aches and skip the session, at the same time automatically denying the numbers that Muhyiddin needs.”

Yesterday, MalaysiaNow reported that Umno MPs were told to gather at a hotel in Kuala Lumpur recently in an effort by a senior party leader to convince them to vote against the budget bill.

It is learnt that several more meetings were also held on Monday, as well as last night.

In a statement yesterday, ministers and deputy ministers from BN pledged their support for Muhyiddin Yassin as prime minister, saying the country needs a stable government to ensure its recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic.

The statement, signed by 20 ministers and deputy ministers including Senior Minister for Security Ismail Sabri Yaakob, Transport Minister Wee Ka Siong, Foreign Minister Hishammuddin Hussein, and Science, Technology and Innovation Minister Khairy Jamaluddin, said the first step towards enabling this is to ensure that the budget is supported and passed by MPs in the Dewan Rakyat.

“We agree that the current government formed through consensus should continue to receive support, including the full support of Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin’s leadership in implementing the plan for economic recovery and public health,” they said.

However, they added that a general election should be held as soon as possible once the situation permits to obtain a clearer mandate from the people.

“Until then, we are united in strengthening BN’s position in the current administration and mobilising efforts to ensure that BN’s is the strongest voice in the government.”

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