Fixed term legislation might subvert democratic and constitutional process in Malaysia

UMNO president and Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi (main pic, middle) has recently proposed a Fixed Term Parliament Act (FTPA) to enable the government to ensure political stability for addressing the needs of the people.

Later this proposal was welcomed by the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Law And Institutional Reform) Datuk Seri Azalina Othman.

She welcomed Zahid’s suggestion saying this kind of legislations have been introduced in other countries for governments to function effectively for a fixed term in office.

She further said that a specific committee would be set up to examine the feasibility of the FTPA. Maybe Azalina should give examples of countries where the fixed term law has worked.

Why would Zahid or Azalina support a parliamentary legislation so that a government can stay in power for fixed term? Why is there a need for the fixed term legislation if the Madani government has the majority support in the Parliament?

Are these two ministers worried that the majority support of the government might not last? Is this the reason behind the fixed term parliament legislation?

There is no need for fixed term if the present government can last the remainder of the five-year term. There might be indications that the government can last the remainder of the five-year term before the next general elections.

‘Odd and crazy idea’

However, if the fixed term legislation is introduced, it might pose a legal and constitutional problem if the government loses majority support in the Parliament.

Here the question is not about the law on the fixed term but whether the government has the majority support in the Parliament. It would be redundant to have the fixed term law if the government loses its majority support.

I am not sure whether this idea of a fixed term law is in response to rumours of impending crossovers of MPs to the side of the opposition and not to mention that much talked about “Dubai Move” plot to remove the government in power.

Alternatively, there are counter-rumours saying that the present government might get more crossovers from the opposition to beef up its parliamentary strength. If the latter has some basis, why do leaders like Zahid and Azalina have to worry about introducing a fixed term legislation.

The very idea of a fixed term parliamentary legislation is odd and crazy. No government instituted on the basis of people’s mandate would want to bring in a legislation that might usurp the democratic rights of the citizens.

Prof Ramasamy Palanisamy

Such a legislation if introduced would be authoritarian in nature and intended to subvert the democratic process in the country.

I am ashamed that the ministers like Zahid and Azalina are thinking about such a retrograde legislation. Paradoxically, it would not strengthen the government in power but contribute to its early demise.

Ideally, the present unity government of Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim should serve for the one full term. This was the mandate given in the last general elections.

However, the mandate to govern is not automatic; it must be based on the majority support of the MPs. If the government loses the support of the majority, it ceases to exist and new elections might be called by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong (YDPA).

If the new fixed term is introduced, can it have the potential not only to subvert the democratic function of the Parliament but also interfere in the constitutional process of the country?

The Madani government rather than thinking of ways and means to improve its democratic credentials, should not opt for undemocratic mechanisms to stay in power. – Jan 15, 2024


Former DAP stalwart and Penang chief minister II Prof Ramasamy Palanisamy is chairman of the Urimai (United Rights of Malaysian Party) Interim Council.

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

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