KUALA LUMPUR – Loan moratoriums, Covid-19 aid and democratic reforms – these are some of the main demands of Malaysian opposition leaders in return for their support the government’s next budget.
Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, who tried to usurp Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin after claiming in September to obtain the support of the majority, proposed a “bipartite” approach in budget formulation.
Datuk Seri Anwar, along with his ally Pakatan Harapan (PH), the Democratic Action Party (DAP), had consistently called for an extension of the general moratorium on loans granted to more than eight million Malaysian borrowers between April and September amid the economic fallout from the Coronavirus pandemic.
The government has so far resisted calls for a blanket extension, instead allowing banks to provide targeted debt relief to those who lost their jobs during the pandemic.
“The DAP is ready to work with all political parties to pressure Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin to extend the loan moratorium for another six months,” DAP Secretary General Lim Guan Eng said on Wednesday. last (October 28).
Strictly speaking, Tan Sri Muhyiddin may not need the votes of his political rivals to push the budget through parliament. His pact Perikatan Nasional still holds a slim majority with 113 of the 222 seats in the lower house, after his biggest party – Umno – twice reaffirmed its support last week.
But signing trust and supply deals with opposition parties could help strengthen its position and ensure the budget goes through without a hitch.
The king, Sultan Abdullah Ahmad Shah, last week refused to grant Mr. Muhyiddin emergency powers this would have suspended Parliament and allowed the approval of government spending for the next year without being scrutinized by lawmakers. But he also advised all lawmakers to support Mr Muhyiddin’s budget, saying they should focus on the welfare of the people and the country.
Muhyiddin said his government would listen to the opposition to gain bipartisan support for the budget.
“I hope that all parliamentarians can put aside their political differences and adopt the budget. Let us put people first. If we do, we can come to an agreement with any opposition,” he said at the time. of a televised address on Saturday.
However, Subang Wong Chen MP from Mr. Anwar’s Keadilan Rakyat Party said party support for Mr. Muhyiddin’s budget should be used as a bargaining chip in exchange for democratic reforms.
The main one of these reforms is that the Parliament authorizes the tabling and the debate of motions of confidence against Mr. Muhyiddin.
There are at least 25 no-confidence motions tabled for the next session, but they are unlikely to be debated as the lower house prioritizes government business.
Other reform demands include equal allowances for all MPs, regardless of political affiliation, and a law guaranteeing the independence of parliament from the executive.
The Warisan Sabah Party, which aligns with Mr Anwar’s PH bloc, recently said it would consider supporting the budget if it provides more assistance to Sabah, which is the worst-affected state in the country. Malaysia in the current third wave of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Warisan Chairman Shafie Apdal said last Tuesday the party would support a budget that would improve state health facilities and quarantine centers, as well as extended financial assistance to the needy.
“… the medical and health sector is lagging far behind other states, so the 2021 budget should focus on addressing these issues for the Sabahans,” Datuk Seri Shafie said.
Since an epidemic that followed national elections at the end of September, Sabah now owns almost half of the over 30,000 coronavirus infections in Malaysia. It also recorded more than 100 deaths in October alone, up from 249 so far.