Cabinet allocation ‘ticking time bomb’, says research outfit

BMI Research pointed out that the delay in completing the Cabinet line-up indicated continued difficulty in negotiations between the parties. — Picture by Azneal Ishak
BMI Research pointed out that the delay in completing the Cabinet line-up indicated continued difficulty in negotiations between the parties. — Picture by Azneal Ishak

KUALA LUMPUR, July 3 — The lopsided allocation of Cabinet positions that favours Malay-dominated parties could cause discontent in Pakatan Harapan (PH) that may escalate with future disagreements, BMI Research said today.

The Fitch Group research outfit said although PKR and DAP have the most ministerial and deputy ministerial positions totalling 15 and 12 respectively, a Cabinet line-up strictly proportionate with parties’ parliamentary seat count should see PKR holding 19 positions, DAP (17 positions), Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (PPBM) (five positions), Parti Amanah Negara (Amanah) (five positions), and Parti Warisan Sabah (Warisan) (three positions), with two positions to spare.

PPBM, Amanah and Warisan instead have 10, nine and five Cabinet positions respectively.

“We believe this lopsided allocation of Cabinet positions was one of the main contributing factors to the drawn-out nature of the negotiations before the appointees were finalised.

“We therefore see this allocation as a ticking time bomb that might be triggered and brought up as a key grievance among the parties should future disagreements about policy or other matters become aggravated and is another risk contributing to a possible dissolution of the coalition,” said BMI Research.

The research unit said it acknowledged that the Cabinet lineup may allay fears among Malays about the Chinese supposedly taking over the country, and so PH parties might have agreed that giving predominantly Malay parties more portfolios was necessary for their political survival.

“However, the degree of over-representation for PPBM and Amanah is high as they received twice the number of portfolios that they should be getting at the clear expense of PKR and DAP,” said BMI Research.

PKR is the biggest PH party in Parliament with 50 seats (including three independents who joined it after the 14th general election). DAP is the second-largest with 42 seats, followed by PPBM (13), Amanah (11) and Warisan (eight).

BMI Research pointed out that the delay in completing the Cabinet line-up, three weeks after Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s self-imposed deadline to finalise it by end May, indicated continued difficulty in negotiations between the parties.

“While the number of Cabinet positions that was allocated to each party was in rough accordance to their seat count, the two largest parties, centrist Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) and secular Democratic Action Party (DAP) are under-represented in the Cabinet, whereas the Malay-dominated parties Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (PPBM) and Parti Amanah Negara (Amanah) enjoy over-representation.

“This has likely resulted in some dissatisfaction among PKR and DAP and in our view, will potentially emerge as a flashpoint in inter-party relations within the PH coalition,” said BMI Research.

An additional 13 ministers and 23 deputy ministers were sworn in yesterday, making it a total of 28 ministers and 23 deputies, including the prime minister and deputy prime minister. Dr Mahathir said yesterday that three more ministers would be appointed after they are sworn in as ministers.

BMI Research also said that having a minister and deputy from different parties for all the Cabinet portfolios could delay policy-making in the short term, even if this could ensure accountability and more robust intra-ministry policy debates.

“The establishment of a working relationship could prove to be difficult given the divergent policy platforms of each constituent parties. Should they turn out to be incompatible over the long term, this would cause gridlock over the government’s term (2018-2023) and necessitate reshuffles, leading to further uncertainty.

“This is more likely now given the need to accommodate the views of a fifth party, Warisan.”

DAP Socialist Youth openly criticised the Cabinet line-up yesterday, saying that it was not proportionate to the number of seats that PH parties won in the May 9 election.