Friday, May 13, 2016

Let’s not lose track of democracy

Salleh Said Keruak

There is a lot of hype regarding the one million (some say 500,000 and others say 1.2 million) signatures that the ‘Save Malaysia’ campaign was supposed to have received in support of its petition. And it has just been announced that these signatures are going to be sent to His Majesty the Agong.

While in a democracy that is allowed, however, according to the law or the Federal Constitution of Malaysia, there is very little His Majesty can do about this petition -- unlike in the UK where if a petition receives at least 100,000 signatures then it normally goes to Parliament for debating.

While we say that the government must respect and observe the Constitution, those opposed to the government must also do the same thing. And the Constitution very specifically says that the Member of the House who commands the confidence of the majority of the Members of the House gets to become Prime Minister.

In that same spirit if the Prime Minister loses the confidence of the majority Members of the House then he has to step down as Prime Minister. This means not just the Prime Minister but the party that the Prime Minister leads is ousted and the party from the other side gets to form the new government.

Of course, there are ways this can be done and one way would be to pass a vote of no confidence against the Prime Minister. For that to happen the Members of Parliament from the ruling party have to cross over to the opposition. Then the government falls. So we will not just be bringing down the Prime Minister but the party in power as well.

Other than that His Majesty’s hands will be tied. There is no provision in the Constitution that allows the Agong to sack a Prime Minister. The Prime Minister’s own party has to do that (like in the case of Selangor Menteri Besar Khalid Ibrahim) or MPs from the Prime Minister’s own party have to cross over to the opposition (like in the case of Perak Menteri Besar Nizar Jamaluddin).

Of course, just to put on a show and give an impression that the Prime Minister has lost support you can always get one million signatures and send these signatures to the Agong. But then the question would be then what? Will you demand that the Agong sack the Prime Minister even though that would be unlawful?

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