Saturday, September 5, 2015

Elections are the prerogative of the prime minister

Salleh Said Keruak

In a Westminster system of government, it is the prerogative of the prime minister as to when to call for fresh elections. If the prime minister does not dissolve parliament to make way for fresh elections then parliament automatically dissolves five years from the start of parliament and elections must be held within two months. And the first session of parliament must be held within six months after the new government is formed.

In other words, the first session of parliament can be held six months after the elections while elections must be held five years and two months after that. So the prime minister can rule for five years and seven months or he can cut short his term and call for elections after just, say, three years.

The first four general elections after Merdeka were held in five years. The next four general elections were held in four years. The ninth general election was held in five years and the tenth in four years. That was followed by the last three general elections which were held in five years, four years, and five years respectively.

Whether the present government stays till mid-2018 or ends today is, therefore, entirely up to Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak. The fallacy being created is that ‘peoples’ power’ will decide. Peoples’ power can decide who gets to form the government through the ballot box. But people’s power does not decide when the government retires. The prime minister decides that and any action contrary to that would be called a "coup".

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