KUALA LUMPUR — Malaysia’s parliament sitting on Monday (Jul 13) saw the appointment of a new speaker and deputy speaker in the Lower House now controlled by the Perikatan Nasional (PN) led by Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin.

Half of the 222 Members of Parliament (MP) backed the motion tabled by Mr Muhyiddin to remove Mr Mohamad Ariff Md Yusoff, a retired Court of Appeal judge appointed by the previous Pakatan Harapan (PH) government, as speaker. A total of 109 others voted against the bid, while one MP was absent. Deputy Speaker Mohd Rashid Hasnon, an MP who is now aligned to PN, is believed to have abstained from voting as he was presiding over the sitting.

Mr Azhar Azizan Harun, who was Election Commission chairman until his resignation on Jun 29, took over as the new speaker. On Monday morning, the chamber descended into uproar with heckling from both sides during the debate on Mr Muhyiddin’s motion for the incumbent speaker to vacate his seat.

Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim said the prime minister was replacing Mr Mohamad Ariff for no valid reason, and that the latter had brought many positive changes to the House’s proceedings. He was supported by former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad, currently an independent MP, who added that a replacement can be brought in if the speaker had died or was too sick to work, but this motion was introduced simply because Mr Muhyiddin had a different candidate. 

“I also have a different candidate for prime minister,” he quipped, drawing laughter from the House. 

In winding up the morning debate, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Takiyuddin Hassan, who holds the parliament and law portfolios, said it was perfectly legal for the current government to replace the speaker.  Monday’s sitting marked the opening of the second parliament meeting since PN took over federal administration. The previous PH government had collapsed in February, after Mr Muhyiddin pulled Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia out of PH and Dr Mahathir resigned as the seventh prime minister.   

The first meeting on May 18 only lasted less than half a day. The motions to replace Mr Mohamad Ariff and deputy speaker Nga Kor Ming on Monday were largely seen as a test of Mr Muhyiddin’s majority in the 222-member parliament. He was sworn in as Malaysia’s eighth prime minister on Mar 1.  He was replaced by Ms Azalina Othman Said, who is Pengerang MP from United Malays National Organisation. 

Mahathir’s Motion of No Confidence Against Muhyiddin

This parliament meeting will sit for 25 days until Aug 27. Dr Mahathir’s motion seeking a vote of no confidence against his successor Mr Muhyiddin is listed as item 27 on the order paper. However, since government matters always take precedence, it would unlikely see the light of the day this week. 

Among the bills expected to be tabled during this meeting is the COVID-19 Temporary Measures Bill to minimise the economic, social and industrial impact of the pandemic. Amendments to the Road Transport Act 1987 involving those driving under the influence are also expected to be tabled, after a rise in fatalities caused by drink-driving. Two finance-related bills expected to be presented are the Supplementary Supply (2019) and (2020) bills.