Change in Perak and Kedah state governments: An unlikely scenario — Lim Wei Jiet

MARCH 6 — It was reported that Umno and PAS had recently formed a “marriage”, whereby both would cooperate politically from now onwards. The spotlight immediately fell on 2 Pakatan Harapan (PH) State Governments which were won on razor-thin margins in GE14 — Perak and Kedah.

Perak: Shaky but steady for PH

The Silver State (with 59 seats) is no stranger to dramatic changes in Government. The last one happened in 2009, where 3 Pakatan Rakyat assemblypersons pledged their loyalty to BN, tipping a change in State Government in a matter of days.

In GE14, Umno won 27 seats while PAS won 3 seats. PH (under PKR’s logo) won 29 seats. Neither commanded a simple majority. But 2 Umno assemblypersons rendered their support to PH, and the PH State Government lead by Menteri Besar Ahmad Faizal Azumu was formed with the minimum 31 seat majority.

Fast forward — former Umno Sungai Manik assemblyperson Zainol Fadzi Paharudin has joined Bersatu, and is now even an advisor to the Perak Menteri Besar.  Meanwhile, former Umno Tualang Sekah assemblyperson Nolee Ashilin Mohamed Radzi is now an Independent who supports PH.

This would mean that PH now has a 31 seat majority, while Umno & PAS has collectively 28 seats. But the Speaker (or the presiding assemblyperson) cannot cast his/her vote, unless when there is a tie.

So PH commands 30 votes on the State Assembly floor, while Umno & PAS has 28 votes. In order for a motion of no-confidence to succeed, Umno & PAS will need to out-vote PH in the State Assembly by 1 vote or more. That seems to be quite an uphill task to achieve. This is unless Umno & PAS manages to convince the Independent assemblyperson to side them, and/or if some PH members fail to attend the State Assembly during such motion. In 1979, the UK’s Labour government lead by James Callaghan lost a vote of no-confidence by 1 vote with a 311-310 final count.

Even so, Umno & PAS needs to take into consideration that the PH Speaker (or the presiding assemblyperson) can cast his/her vote in the event of a tie. Canada’s House of Commons Speaker Peter Milliken did this in 2005.

Of course, Umno & PAS can also try to convince the Sultan of Perak by other means that PH has ceased to command the majority — via statutory declarations, physical meetings, etc. This is permissible pursuant to the Federal Court case of Dato’ Seri Ir Hj Mohammad Nizar bin Jamaluddin v Dato’ Seri Dr Zambry bin Abdul Kadir [2010] 2 MLJ 285. But the high burden on Umno & PAS remains.

Hence, unless the political dynamics shift drastically, the PH Perak State Government is on stable grounds.

Kedah: Rockier terrain

In Kedah, the political chess-pieces are more interesting.

The GE14 results saw PAS winning 15 seats, while Umno won 3 seats. PH won 18 seats. Kedah is one of the few states which have an even number of seats — 36. This proves problematic when determining which party commands the majority, especially when it is split 18-18 down the middle after GE14.

However, despite not commanding a simple majority, the Sultan of Kedah accepted PH’s offer under the leadership of Menteri Besar Mukhriz Mahathir to form the Kedah State Government.

Since then, former Umno Guar Chempedak assemblyperson Datuk Dr Ku Abdul Rahman Ku Ismail has joined Bersatu. So the equation now stands at 19 seats for PH versus 17 seats for Umno & PAS.

The difference is narrower than in Perak, but Umno & PAS still has a difficult hurdle to overcome. The test remains — can they out-vote PH by 1 vote or more in a motion of no-confidence? A vote of no-confidence is within the realm of probability. But again, unless there is defection from PH and/or there is failure by PH assemblypersons to attend the State Assembly, it is very much unlikely. In a State Assembly which has even number of seats, the Speaker’s decisive casting vote is not usually required.

Therefore, until political tectonic plates shift in the near future, Kedah will likely remain status quo.

What if loss of confidence of majority is proven?

In the event a motion of no-confidence succeeds, or Umno & PAS manages by other means to convince the Rulers that PH has lost confidence, the PH Menteri Besars have 2 options.

First, he and his Executive Councillors can resign and allow Umno & PAS to form the new State Government.

Second, he may seek from the Ruler to dissolve the State Assembly to pave way for a fresh state-wide election. The Ruler can either assent to such request, or reject the same. If it is the latter, under current case law, the Menteri Besar and his Executive Councillors must resign and allow Umno & PAS to lead.

* Lim Wei Jiet is an Advocate & Solicitor of the High Court of Malaya.

** This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of Malay Mail.