(Updated)

Budget 2021 passed in Dewan Rakyat despite opposition's last-ditch efforts to stymie bill

Budget 2021 passed in Dewan Rakyat despite opposition's last-ditch efforts to stymie bill
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KUALA LUMPUR (Dec 15): The opposition failed in its attempt to thwart Budget 2021 as it was passed in the final approval stage in the Dewan Rakyat today via an en bloc vote.

The vote ended with 111 Members of Parliament (MPs) in favour and 108 MPs against the passing of the budget. One MP was absent out of the 220 members. The 111 votes represented a simple majority.

The razor-thin margin of victory could be perceived as Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin retaining the confidence of the Parliament, albeit barely, averting the collapse of the government and subsequent snap elections.

The Dewan Rakyat currently has 220 members following the deaths of two MPs earlier in the year.

It is believed that the lone absentee was Gua Musang MP Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah from Barisan Nasional, who had earlier pledged to abstain from the vote if the legitimacy of the Perikatan Nasional (PN) government led by Muhyiddin is untested in Parliament via a no-confidence motion.

Budget 2021, or the Supply Bill 2021, will now head to the Dewan Negara (Senate), where it will be debated and voted on before it gets the final seal of approval.

Yesterday, Pakatan Harapan called upon all lawmakers to reject the bill at its third reading, saying it had failed to meet the goals of combatting Covid-19, help the people and restore the economy.

Murmurings of an upheaval in the PN ranks were rife today after Tengku Razaleigh, better known as Ku Li, together with former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, held an extraordinary press conference yesterday to declare that the current government was illegitimate and warned that the government may fall, if Muhyiddin did not get the support of the House for the budget.

Ku Li and Dr Mahathir have a long-standing political rivalry, and both stand on different sides of the political divide.

But the senior Umno politician said he was "sharing the platform with Tun [Dr Mahathir] purely because I want to make sure we have a legitimate government".

Both men proposed a formation of a unity government to serve the people.

However, Dr Mahathir’s attempt to undermine Muhyiddin’s leadership failed today as his opposition bloc had lost, which means the PN government will retain its position and, most importantly, Muhyiddin will retain his premiership.

Earlier in the day, the House also approved the education and higher education ministries’ respective budgets via a voice vote.

All 27 ministries’ budgets had cleared the committee stage of Budget 2021 after passing the policy stage last month. The opposition lost all its bloc voting during the debates.

The RM322.5 billion budget is the biggest in the country’s history as it is in the throes of dealing with the economic and social impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

For more Parliament stories, click here.

Lam Jian Wyn & Tan Choe Choe