By Mohsin Abdullah
The 111 "ayes" the prime minister obtained in the Parliament might be enough to replace Tan Sri Mohamad Ariff Mohd Yusof and Nga Kor Ming as Speaker and Deputy Speaker respectively. And Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin has proven that he has the support of the Dewan Rakyat.
However, 111 is not a simple majority in the Parliament, the magic number being 112. But had Datuk Seri Maximus Ongkili been present, his vote would surely have gone to the "ayes", giving Muhyiddin the simple majority. He is after all the Perikatan Nasional MP for Kota Marudu.
Ongkili was absent on medical grounds from the Dewan Rakyat when it reconvened on Monday July 13. Even without his vote, the government motion to replace Ariff and Nga tabled by the prime minister won by two votes.
Deputy Speaker Datuk Rashid Hasnon did not vote as he was presiding. For the record, 109 MPs were against the motion.
Taking into account that Ongkili and Rashid are from Perikatan Nasional, the government has 113 MPs in the House while the opposition has 109.
Some observers opine that the no-confidence motion against Muhyiddin put up by former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad has now been rendered irrelevant assuming that the same voting behavior takes place, which will see the motion defeated albeit with the slimmest of margins.
Still nothing can be taken for granted. The big question is whether the new Speaker will allow the no-confidence motion to be tabled. The motion was accepted and put into the Dewan Rakyat agenda by former Speaker Ariff.
Anyway, Muhyiddin will have to ensure full attendance of Perikatan Nasional MPs during subsequent voting, whatever motions might be tabled.
For now, discussions among the opposition on whether they can oust Muhyiddin and form a new government can be put to a rest. Nevertheless, a Pakatan Harapan leader says the Muhyiddin administration "can collapse anytime" given its wafer-thin majority.
Says DAP leader Dr Aziz Bari: "Muhyiddin is not out of the woods yet, especially the survival of his administration."
Umno’s voice, he anticipates, will now become louder as Muhyiddin owes his survival to its support.
As if on cue, Umno Youth chief Datuk Asyraf Wajdi Dusuki questioned whether the Perikatan Nasional government can survive after the narrow win in Parliament.
In an immediate response, Asyraf tweeted: "Can the PN government last?" The question refers to whether the government bloc can retain enough support until the next general election which is due in 2023, as the 14th general election was held only two years ago.
A day before the motion was tabled by Muhyiddin, the Umno Youth leader suggested that the Parliament be dissolved should the motion fail.
Umno leaders have been clamoring for a snap election even before the motion was tabled. The party is seen to want to contest the election as Muafakat Nasional together with PAS, and not under the Perikatan Nasional banner.
Perikatan Nasional is not an officially registered entity and Umno is not keen to see it registered.
It is no secret that Umno wants to be a dominant force at election time. The party is no big fan of Bersatu and many of its leaders have called for the party led by Muhyiddin to be disbanded.
Muhyiddin has the option of waiting it out, trying to fix the division in Bersatu and perhaps strengthen it with new recruits.
Umno does not want that as it sees itself as the only party for the Malays.
While Muhyiddin ponders his next move, the words of the Umno youth chief -- "will PN last?" -- must be ringing in his ears.
Meanwhile, talk of a snap election is picking up momentum once again.
(Mohsin Abdullah is a veteran journalist and now a freelancer who writes about this, that and everything else.)