Anwar claims he has the numbers to form a government but what do the law experts say?

A general view of Istana Negara in Kuala Lumpur February 28, 2020. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa
A general view of Istana Negara in Kuala Lumpur February 28, 2020. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 24 — As questions loom as to whether PKR president Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim can legally take over the government and be the country’s next prime minister, Federal Constitution experts have weighed in, saying the final decision rests with the Agong when he returns.

On Tuesday, Istana Negara confirmed that Yang di-Pertuan Agong Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah was admitted to the National Heart Institute (IJN) on Monday as he had not been feeling well lately.

Malaysian Bar’s Constitutional Law Committee co-chairman, Andrew Khoo, said Anwar will have to wait until the Agong can grant him an audience.

“The Agong is not in such a situation that the deputy Yang di-Pertuan Agong has to take over,” he told Malay Mail when contacted.

Khoo was responding to public reaction after Anwar’s announcement yesterday indicating that he commands the majority support to form a new government.

However, Khoo said a hold-up could affect Anwar’s efforts at seeing through the return of Pakatan Harapan (PH) as the government.

“In the meantime, any delay gives Muhyiddin the time to try and persuade those who may now have pledged their support to Anwar, to return to support Muhyiddin,” said Khoo in reference to Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin.

“He (Anwar) has to hope his support doesn’t slip away while he is waiting.”

In response to the announcement, lawyer Sivahnanthan Ragava said if Anwar has the numbers, there are two things that could happen.

One, the prime minister can ask the Agong to dissolve Parliament with two choices at hand: consent to dissolution; or reject and appoint an MP who has the numbers as the new prime minister.

“But it depends on whether the current prime minister wants to cooperate and if he wants to dissolve his government.

“Also, just like how the ‘Sheraton Move’ (was orchestrated), they (Perikatan Nasional) took over the government, the same way Anwar can (take over the government), do that,” he told Malay Mail when contacted.

But to be fair, Sivahnanthan said Malaysians should be granted a fresh election.

“Previously, they (PH) called PN a backdoor government, because they took the powers of the previous government (PH).

“So the best thing is for a fresh election to be held and let the people choose who they want as the government. But with this game of politics, will the country get a stable government?” he said.

He also urged the government to come up with an anti-party hopping law in anticipation of the ‘Sheraton Move’ happening again.

“The ‘Sheraton Move’ will happen again because it is legal.

“Without the anti-party hopping law, this can repeat and is going to be a precedent,” he said.

In late February, then PKR deputy president Datuk Seri Azmin Ali led 10 MPs out of the party to support PN, triggering one of the country’s worst political crises and shortening the rule of PH, the coalition he helped put in power.

Sivananthan added that there is no need for the deputy Yang di-Pertuan Agong to step in unless the Agong is forced to extend his hospital stay.

“If it’s just a few days, then there is no need for the deputy Yang di-Pertuan Agong to step in,” he said.

Lawyer Lim Wei Jiet, while agreeing, pointed out that the Agong could also appoint a new prime minister straightaway before the request for a dissolution of the government is made.

He also cited the possibility of the deputy Yang di-Pertuan Agong intervening in the absence of the Agong.

“Article 33(1) states that the deputy Yang di-Pertuan Agong shall exercise the functions of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong if the latter is ‘unable to exercise the functions of his office owing to illness’,” said Lim citing the Federal Constitution.

Under Article 33 (1), however, Lim added it is stated that the deputy Yang di-Pertuan Agong “shall not exercise those functions during any inability or absence of the Agong which is expected to be less than 15 days, unless the former feels it necessary to exercise such functions”.

Anwar reportedly claimed that he has the support of the majority of the Dewan Rakyat to form a new government and announced that he would be seeking an audience with the Yang di-Pertuan Agong soon.

The Port Dickson MP also pledged that he will form an inclusive government despite stressing that it would still be one that is predominantly led by Bumiputera and Malay-Muslim leaders.

He added that former PH and PKR politicians who defected to PN are not among those who are now backing him to form a government.

 

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