The King is on the right side of popular opinion

Will we be getting a real people’s budget for 2021, with everyone giving input and the opposition demurring to object when it is tabled in the Dewan Rakyat soon? - NSTP file picWill we be getting a real people’s budget for 2021, with everyone giving input and the opposition demurring to object when it is tabled in the Dewan Rakyat soon? – NSTP file pic

WILL we be getting a real people’s budget for 2021, with everyone giving input and the opposition demurring to object when it is tabled in the Dewan Rakyat soon?

Will it be a budget by committee with all sides of the political divide having their say? This would be great given the parliamentary circus that accompanies the tabling of the government’s annual spending bill in the past few years.

It is not because politicians have come to their senses following the king’s wishes via his much-publicised statement on the need to dial down the politics to pass 2021 Budget in this time of Covid-19.

It is because the royal communique had sort of checkmated politicians from doing what they do best, which is to cause a ruckus lest they be seen to be insolent and disrespectful.
The royal advice came as people were weary of Covid-19 and its consequences on the economy.

Keeping up with the new normal is not a very pleasant endeavour, especially with businesses scaling or closing down, many people are either having less money or out of jobs, kids are out of school, and uncertain times ahead.

People are feeling helpless looking at the numbers of increasing daily Covid-19 cases, and at the same time, hapless of the endless politicking.

The pandemic may break the spirit of many, but politicians have the unerring extraordinary resilience and obtuse insensitivity to pursue politics as usual, over all else, even during a global health crisis.

The prime ministership, for instance, is no longer coveted with humility and deference, but instead in table-thumping style. It is as if all the hardship facing the people is to be used as another excuse for politicking.

All these political plays may excite the political junkies, but for the rest of the people, it is yet another thing that we don’t really need.

Hence, the strong resonance to the king’s statement to ease off politics, to swallow each other’s pride and for everyone to work together to pass the budget. I suppose the astute politicians would have sensed the people’s relief with the king’s statement.

To not incur the wrath of voters most of the key players have promised, perhaps grudgingly, to work towards ensuring the people’s welfare and presumably see the 2021 Budget through.

Obviously, everyone will want his fair share of opinions, and pound of flesh too. Whether it is more assistance and breaks for businesses, money for regular folks, the moratorium on loans or their favourite causes.

Some say the royal advice is a lifeline for Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin and presumably has taken the legs out of the planned attempt to bring down his government. It was loudly suggested that defeating 2021 Budget would be a proxy vote of no confidence, and hence him losing support and the authority to lead.

It was all thought out and planned by both the government — hence the proposed emergency that has been put on hold — and the opposition, who has been tallying up potential votes and sharing promises of the spoils of victory.

However, the pandemic and politicking has lessened the appeal of persons of all-political persuasion with the public.

Someone as influential and seemingly above the fray, such as the king, stepping in to call for calm is almost like a window in a stuffy room being cracked open.

The politeness and respect to the king are not surprising, despite them all knowing that constitutionally, the government is not bound to take heed of input from the palace.

While the king’s advice or opinion is non-binding constitutionally, and in most instances, is likely be taken note of rather than be a basis for a political ceasefire and collaboration, the unholy tryst of a pandemic and unfettered politicians and political ambitions has given weight and consequence to it.

Having the king’s statement made public has also taken the wind out politicians’ sails. One not only will be seen to be impolite and discourteous to disregard his advice, but would also be dismissive of popular opinion.

I suppose people will have to swallow their pride so as not to appear “biadap” (disrespectful) to the king and be tone deaf to the people’s fears and insecurities to get the 2021 Budget going, and ironically, stave off any plan to dislodge Muhyiddin.

It will be interesting to see who would vote down the 2021 Budget, if any. Also, who would be willing to be the boor brandishing the constitution, citing the roles and responsibilities of the monarchy and the executive.

It is ironic that some politicians, given their enthusiasm for regime change, have snookered themselves. If they choose to continue to pursue their agenda despite the royal reminder, they may live to regret it.

While the palace has no role in governance, this time the king is on the right side of popular opinion. I suppose everyone will now hunker down and prepare for the 15th General Election, which is likely to be called sooner than itis due, subject to Covid-19 cooperating, of course.

By ZAINUL ARIFIN.

Read more @ https://www.nst.com.my/opinion/columnists/2020/11/636941/king-right-side-popular-opinion

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