Election in Melaka: The roles of head of states based on the UK model

FOUR Melaka state assemblymen said last week that they had lost all confidence in the state’s leadership and withdrew their support.

The quartet were Datuk Seri Idris Haron (BN-Sungai Udang), Datuk Nor Azman Hassan (BN-Pantai Kundor), Datuk Norhizam Hassan Baktee (Independent-Pengkalan Batu) and Datuk Noor Effandi Ahmad (Bersatu-Telok Mas).

Melaka Governor Tun Mohd Ali Rustam took the decision to dissolve the state assembly after consulting with chief minister Datuk Seri Sulaiman Md Ali.

On Oct 5, the dissolution proclamation was gazetted. The proclamation was then passed on to the Election Commission (EC), which will make a decision based on standard operating procedures and recommendations from the National Security Council (NSC) and Health Ministry (MOH).

An election must be held within 60 days of the dissolution date.

According to the Pakatan Harapan presidential council, Adly Zahari, Pakatan’s then-chief minister, was not permitted to dissolve the Melaka state assembly after losing his majority last year, but Sulaiman was allowed to do it.

Pakatan argued that the dissolution of the state legislature contrasts with the Federal Court’s decision in Datuk Seri Nizar Jamaluddin v. Datuk Seri Zambry Abdul Kadir, in which the majority support could be determined outside the state legislative assembly.

On the similar line, it is questioned whether the incumbent chief minister has given bad advice to the governor.

Last year, then-Sabah chief minister Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal announced the dissolution of the state legislative assembly.

This is in order to pave way for a state election after several elected members of his Government defected to support former chief minister Tan Sri Musa Aman in an attempt to overthrow his state government.

But Shafie did that while still commanding majority support from Sabah state assemblymen, unlike Sulaiman where his majority was already in question like what happened to Nizar back in 2009.

The current attempt or attempts to overthrow the reigning governments, whether at the federal or state level, are becoming increasingly widespread.

While their acts are lawful, it is a question whether it helps the nation and its people or otherwise.

Pertinent questions

Why are our politicians actively involved in the process of changing government at the federal and state levels at a time when the country is just recovering from COVID-19?

Is it consistent with the present Prime Minister’s motto, “Keluarga Malaysia,” to have an election at this time while compromising the lives of ordinary people?

Is it imperative for politicians to fulfil their own political ambitions rather than putting the welfare and well-being of ordinary citizens as priority?

The Westminster System

Anyhow, Malaysia was a former British colony.

As a result, Malaysia has adopted the Westminster system of government.

The Westminster system is named after the location in central London where the UK Parliament is based. Canada, New Zealand, India and Singapore also adopt the democratic Westminster system.

The doctrine of separation of powers, democratic elections, election of the Government’s leader, the Opposition, the Crown, independent public service and the rule of law are all important characteristics of this system.

With the current political mess in Melaka and the continued similar scenario at the federal and state levels, let us have a look at what has been done in the UK in similar situations.

When a prime minister resigns in the middle of a term and the Government has a majority, it is up to the party or parties in power to name a successor, according to the Institute for Government, a leading UK think tank dedicated to improving government effectiveness.

It becomes more problematic if a prime minister resigns and the Government’s party does not have a majority. If a clear alternative is likely to command confidence, it merely needs to be communicated to the Palace.

This could be done through a parliamentary system; but it could also be done through coalitions, confidence and supply agreements (CSA) or letters of support between parties.

The Queen is reliant on party leaders making decisions between themselves and informing the Palace.

Whether the incumbent prime minister resigns unexpectedly and there is no obvious replacement, the Queen may turn to the Opposition Leader to try to form a Government and see if he or she can command confidence.

Back in Malaysia, have we never asked Opposition leaders to try to form a Government, either at the federal or state level, when we are confronted with such a situation?

In the UK, even though this is a convention and it is up to the Queen to invite the Opposition Leader, which is quite similar to what happens in Malaysia, inviting the Opposition Leader will reinforce the perception that the process is performed transparently and impartially.

On the other hand, how does the Queen decide who she will appoint?

If there is no clear majority, or if negotiations over government formation have not yielded a clear answer as to who can command confidence, political parties are required to figure out who is best placed and keep the Queen out of any disagreements.

The question of who can command confidence only arises if a party does not win or loses a majority during a Parliament’s tenure.

According to the Cabinet Manual, an incumbent administration has the right to wait until a new parliament meets to determine if it can command the House of Commons’ confidence, but it is required to resign if it becomes evident that it will not be able to do so and that there is a clear alternative.

If it is clear that they will not be able to command confidence, prime minister will quit.

For example, five days after the election in May 2010, Gordon Brown resigned as Prime Minister after it became evident that negotiations with the Liberal Democrats would fail to deliver a deal for Labour, and that the Conservatives were more likely to form a coalition.

The monarch’s private secretary, the prime minister’s principal private secretary, and the Cabinet secretary’s job is to keep the lines of communication open between Buckingham Palace and politicians in order to determine who can be trusted.

They are known as the “golden triangle” informally.

According to the Cabinet Manual, the Queen should stay out of politics, and the responsibility to administer the country lied with the prime minister.

However, according to 1949 civil service papers, the monarch has the absolute power to consult anybody Her Majesty wants and can consult more extensively in a delicate political scenario.

There have been several times during the Queen’s reign when she has had to make a choice on a political crisis that has erupted or about to erupt.

For instance, Prime Minister Winston Churchill died due to a stroke in July 1953 while his successor Anthony Eden was in surgery.

Conclusion

Back to Malaysia, the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, state Rulers and Governors have the power to appoint the prime minister, chief ministers and menteris besar, respectively.

They will act in conformity with federal and state constitutional provisions, as well as precedence set by the court.

They have absolute control over these appointments.

As ordinary citizens, what we want to see was a transparent process of these appointments, in which the Agong, Sultan and governors are effectively advised by the persons in charge, and those recommendations should operate in the best interests of the country and its people. – Oct 12, 2021.

 

R Paneir Selvam is a senior lecturer at the Faculty of Business, Economic and Accounting/Institute of Crime and Criminology, HELP University.

The views expressed are solely of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Focus Malaysia.

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