Prime Minister Ismail’s pact with the opposition holds; budget runs through Malaysian Parliament, Southeast Asian news and top stories

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KUALA LUMPUR – Malaysian Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob passed the first major test of his leadership with the 2022 budget debate that ends in parliament on Monday, December 13.

The measure remained largely unscathed thanks to a Confidence and Supply Agreement (CSA) Datuk Seri Ismail signed with the main opposition coalition Pakatan Harapan (PH) in September. As part of the deal, the Umno-led government pledged to several democratic reforms and to inject an additional 45 billion ringgits (S $ 14.6 billion) for Malaysia’s recovery program against Covid- 19.

Although there were doubts about the budget, PH refrained from opposing it in parliament, saying the prime minister, who is Umno’s vice president, will be immune to a potential internal coup by those seeking early elections.

“Although there are additional allocations, they are still insufficient to ensure a fair budget for all. Raising beyond the 2022 budget total of 332 billion ringgit will not affect the debt or deficit much, but could be essential in saving lives and livelihoods, ”PH said in November.

Numbering 90 in Parliament, PH legislators largely abstained from voting on each section of the budget.

“It is not unanimous, there are those who abstained,” MP for Beruas from PH Ngeh Koo Ham told parliament, correcting President Azhar Harun after the debates.

Under the CFS, reforms such as lowering the voting age to 18 and raising the status of the eastern states, Sabah and Sarawak, as outlined in the Agreement with Malaysia 1963, should be implemented by the end of the year.

Mr Ismail heads a government with a difficult alliance comprising 114 members of the 222-seat parliament, two of which are currently vacant.

The alliance is made up of the same MPs and parties that supported the previous Perikatan Nasional government led by Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, which was toppled after just 18 months when an Umno faction led by its president Zahid Hamidi and the former prime minister Najib Razak withdrew their support for Party Chairman Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia.

But with options such as backing PH chief Anwar Ibrahim or appointing Zahid and Najib – both accused of corruption – ruled out due to political implications, Umno had to come to a compromise with Bersatu to side with Mr. Ismail, who was deputy prime minister in the Muhyiddin administration.

Within Umno, calls for early polls – although the CSA specifies that Parliament will not be dissolved until August next year – have increased since the Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition he leads won a landslide in elections in Melaka state last month.

The BN currently controls 42 seats in parliament, but hopes to almost double that number in the next general election, allowing its leadership – chaired by Zahid – to dictate terms instead of having to negotiate with Bersatu and other parties in the election. government formation.

Umno’s Supreme Council ruled last week that its top five leaders would decide the issue, according to Vice President Mohamad Hasan. But he added that the Prime Minister is of the opinion that “now is not the right time for national polls (but) to work to revive the economy and fight the Covid-19 pandemic” .

Analysts believe Mr Ismail needs more time to step aside and potentially take the reins of Umno in order to improve his chances of another term in power.


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