No legal obstacle to form new ruling coalition, but against spirit of Malaysia's constitution: Expert

No legal obstacle to form new ruling coalition, but against spirit of Malaysia's constitution: Expert

Pakatan Harapan generic
Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad (C) celebrates with other leaders of his Pakatan Harapan coalition during a press conference on May 10, 2018. (Photo: Reuters/Lai Seng Sin)

KUALA LUMPUR: The series of actions by some political parties - seen as efforts to overthrow Pakatan Harapan and form a new ruling coalition - is not against Malaysia's Federal Constitution by the letter of the law, said an expert on Malaysia's constitution.

But it is a violation of the mandate given by the people in the last general election, Malik Imtiaz, a constitutional, administrative and human rights lawyer, told CNA in an interview on Monday (Feb 24).

He added that there is no legal obstacle to stop parties to form a new government.

READ: Malaysian king appoints Mahathir as interim PM after accepting his resignation

Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) president Anwar Ibrahim on Sunday said he has been betrayed by partners in the ruling Pakatan Harapan (PH). 

This came amid growing speculation that a new ruling coalition will be formed comprising Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu), the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), Parti Islam Se-Malaysia (PAS) and a PKR splinter faction led by Mr Azmin Ali.

On Monday, Bersatu president Muhyiddin Yassin said the party has decided to leave PH. 

This was followed by Dr Mahathir Mohamed's resignation as prime minister and Bersatu chairman.

"It depends on how you look at the constitution. If you apply certain provisions of the federal constitution literally, there is nothing to stop this from happening. 

"But then at the same time, if you look at the constitution as something embodying the idea of a democratic government, which ultimately rests on voter choice, then I don't think what's happening is necessarily constitutional," said Mr Malik.

"It would be looking at the spirit of the constitution rather than the exact wording," he aded.

READ: Mahathir Mohamad resigns as Malaysian prime minister

Under the Malaysian constitution – which is modelled on the British Westminster system – the constitutional monarch must appoint a prime minister who commands the confidence of the majority of the Dewan Rakyat, the lower house of Malaysia’s parliament.

There are 222 seats in the Dewan Rakyat, and the coalition looking to form a new government would need to have the support of at least 112 members of parliament. 

According to the constitution, the coalition which commands the confidence of the majority of the MPs can govern. But Mr Malik said the move would be "a subversion of the democratic process".

Mr Malik pointed out the ruling coalition would then consist of parties which the people voted against in the last general election which Pakatan Harapan won. 

SNAP POLLS UNLIKELY

Amid speculation that a general election will be called to let the people decide, Mr Malik added that this would be unlikely, especially after Malaysia's King Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah appointed Dr Mahathir Mohamad as interim prime minister.

Dr Mahathir has also been tasked to take care of the country’s administration until a new prime minister is chosen and the Cabinet is formed.

Mr Malik said this is an indication that a snap general election would not be called, unless neither of the coalitions have the minimum majority of MPs required to govern.

"Only if there is no clear support one way or the other, the numbers are too close or they aren't able to form a majority, this might result in elections being called," he said.

Anwar (left) and Mahathir
Malaysia's Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad (right) sits next to Malaysia's reform icon Anwar Ibrahim during a rally in Port Dickson on Oct 8, 2018. (File photo: AP/Vincent Thian)


Mr Malik added that the whole process of appointing a new prime minister and Cabinet must be done" promptly" because a prolonged period of uncertainty would not be fair to Malaysians.

"By convention, it has to be done as quickly as possible, because you can't have a government in limbo," he said.

READ: Anwar says Mahathir played no part in attempts to create new ruling coalition

However, he added that there was a high possibility that Dr Mahathir would be elected prime minister again, given that both coalitions have pledged their support behind him to be their leader.

"Even the faction (currently led by Anwar) wants him to be their PM. If he’s prepared to support them and if they have the majority of MPs support then he will be prime minister," said Mr Malik.

Source: CNA/am(mn)

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