A last-minute instruction by opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim to his Pakatan Harapan (PH) comrades saw MPs from PKR and DAP sitting out a call for a bloc vote on the 2021 budget, which was easily passed by voice vote.
A PKR insider told MalaysiaNow that the task of spreading the message was given to the party’s chief whip Johari Abdul, the Sungai Petani MP.
“The message made the rounds in the House by word of mouth. Unfortunately, not everyone received it in time,” the source said.
It is learnt that Anwar’s instruction to the MPs was due to former prime minister Najib Razak backing out of his threat to scuttle the budget.
Anwar however later told reporters that the decision to avoid a bloc vote was not due to a lack of numbers on his side.
He also accused the Dewan Rakyat speaker Azhar Harun of being “blatantly biased”, saying MPs were not given the opportunity to air their views during Finance Minister Tengku Zafrul Aziz’s winding-up speech.
During the budget debate which took place over the past two weeks, Najib had echoed Anwar in saying that his vote would be contingent on several amendments to the budget.
“The message made the rounds in the House by word of mouth. Unfortunately, not everyone received it in time.”
There was also speculation that Najib and at least four MPs from Umno would break ranks with their colleagues to vote against the budget.
After Zafrul’s speech today, Azhar urged MPs who wanted a bloc vote to stand up.
Only 13 did so, two MPs short of the minimum 15 needed for a bloc vote to take place.
A bloc vote would have required each MP to individually vote before the budget could be passed.
A check revealed that most Amanah’s MPs stood to call for a bloc vote, but not its top two leaders – president Mohamad Sabu and deputy president Salahuddin Ayub.
The Amanah MPs who stood up were joined by Dr Mahathir Mohamad and three others from his bloc.
Abu Bakar Mohd Rashid, a close confidante of Mohamad, claimed that the Amanah president had been about to stand up when he was stopped by DAP secretary-general Lim Guan Eng.
“Lim pulled his hand, and he sat down. When Salahuddin saw this, he too decided not to stand up,” Abu Bakar told MalaysiaNow in remarks which he also shared on his Facebook.
Anger within PH
Meanwhile, PH supporters, angered over opposition bigwigs’ refusal to call for a bloc vote, took to social media to question the decision.
“An explanation is in order. We owe the people this,” Syahredzan Johan, a close aide of DAP stalwart Lim Kit Siang, said on his Twitter account.
“I know what happened but I don’t why it happened. Sorry, friends,” he added.
“Dont waste your time explaining cos I’m not going to waste mine reading,” said an opposition supporter in response. “The opposition can’t even get 15 fellas to stand. What more can the rakyat hope for?”
An aide to a former deputy minister meanwhile posted a sarcastic tweet, believed to be targeting Anwar’s supporters who claim that the PKR leader has enough support to topple the government.
“So much for being formidable lah,” said Izmil Amri.
The vote on the budget today had been keenly awaited as any failure to pass the bill at the policy stage could mean the collapse of Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin’s government and pandemic-season polls which health authorities have warned against.