When it came to the crunch, Barisan Nasional parliamentarians failed to support the coalition in the Dewan Rakyat and that was why the government came perilously close to losing the vote on Budget 2010 on Monday night.
At least, this is how Pakatan Rakyat chief whip Azmin Ali has read the situation, as he questioned the BN representatives’ commitment to premier Najib Abdul Razak’s economic and financial policies.
The Supply Bill was passed on a night of high drama, with 64 votes for and 63 against the budget proposals that Najib had tabled in October in his capacity as finance minister.
Azmin (left), the Gombak MP and PKR vice-president, claimed to have received information that several BN MPs were not happy with the budget proposals.
“The debate went on for a long time. They listened to what the opposition had to say. We not only advised the government, but also came up with alternatives to the economic policy. Several BN MPs were confident of Pakatan’s ability to come up with a (more realistic) policy,” he said.
“If they had voted against the budget, they could have been in trouble. As such, they chose a safer decision by not turning up at all during the voting.
Azmin himself was not present in the House when the speaker called a bloc vote, as he was on medical leave after performing the haj(pilgrimage) in Mecca.
Without sufficient BN members, Najib and several other ministers and deputies had to rush back to ensure that the bill was passed. A defeat would be a major embarrassment for the prime minister and would have been seen as a vote of no confidence in the government.
Pakatan turnout defended
Pakatan, which controls 82 seats, also had a lower turnout on the night. Had several more of its MPs been present, they could have defeated the bill and created history.
However, Azmin rose to their defence, saying many “were on the ground on their own programmes”.
“The secretariat is gathering more information on the (absent) MPs. I was told that some were abroad, for instance, Mahfuz Omar (right) (PAS-Pokok Sena) was on his way back from Jakarta,” he said.
He dismissed the speaker’ssuggestion that Pakatan had taken advantage of the situation to push for a vote of no-confidence.
“No, this (procedure) is provided for in the Standing Orders and we exercised the option to prove a point. We wanted to send a strong message to the government about the situation on the ground, that the people are not happy with the way the economy is being handled,” explained Azmin.
“This was not a childish move, we were serious about it. I think those who were more childish were MPs from BN because they were not serious about (the proceedings). They should have have taken part in the debate and showed support, but did not do so.”