It is imperative that candidates fielded in the coming Johor state elections make their stand very clearly regarding their commitment to upholding the constitution, wiping out corruption and implementing sustainable development in light of climate change.
What the candidates say about these issues will tell the people what to expect from candidates standing for election at the federal level in a general election.
Firstly, will the candidate commit himself/herself to upholding the federal and state constitutions at all cost? This is extremely important because we don’t want leaders who will circumvent the constitution in order to seize or remain in power in the manner in which the previous prime minister, Muhyiddin Yassin, got himself installed as the prime minister and in a similar way in which the Opposition Pakatan Harapan (PH) is keeping the current prime minister, Ismail Sabri Yaakob, in power.
Both, in my opinion, are unconstitutional because both did not prove they had a majority by facing a no-confidence vote in Parliament before installing themselves as the prime minister. Because they set a precedent, now state menteri besars, instead of facing a no-confidence vote in the state assembly to prove their majority or the lack of it, are — with the agreement of the state head of state — dissolving the state assembly and calling for untimely elections, as in the case of Malacca and now Johor.
Such head of state and head of state government cooperation is political rather than constitutional and the people have the right to know if the candidates standing for election in the state constituencies will ensure that they will NOT give any opportunity to the head of state to influence political decisions.
Constitutionally, the head of state is above politics and the menteri besar must not make decisions in consultation with the head of state under the guise of “advising” the head of state without first proving a lack of a majority in the state assembly, which the menteri besar failed to do in dissolving the Malacca state assembly last year. Likewise, in Johor, no vote of confidence was called at the state assembly but the state government was dissolved.
The people have a right to know if the candidates will play no part in involving the head of state or his representatives in state or federal politics because constitutionally the head of state can not get involved in politics.
The people also have the right to know if the candidate and his/her party will use a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to form pacts and deals to thrust parties or a coalition of their choice into power in the event no party or coalition wins a majority and this is proven through a vote of confidence at the state assembly.
Again, a precedent was set at the federal level when PH signed an MoU with the Sabri government before the latter faced a no-confidence vote in the Dewan Rakyat. As a result, there was no proof that the Sabri government was a minority one with which an MoU could be signed.
An MoU is a tool of last resort used by the Opposition to prop up a minority government when no party or coalition gets a majority vote. The process of proving a majority outside of an election is undertaken in Parliament and the state assemblies as is the democratic convention practised by all democracies.
No party or coalition can declare at a press conference it has a majority or failed to get a majority and then use that to justify taking over a government or calling for elections. It must first be proven through the parliamentary/state assembly process. First, the largest minority coalition will be called to face a no-confidence vote. If it fails, the next minority coalition faces the vote and it goes on one after another. If it is proven that no party or coalition has a majority, then the Opposition has the moral grounds to enter into an MoU with a coalition of its choice and prop it up as a minority government of the day.
In the Malaysian case, that parliamentary process was bypassed and an MoU signed with an unconstitutional government, hence making the MoU unconstitutional as well.
The people have the right to know if this infraction of parliamentary procedures will be repeated.
The MoU can also be abused. In a recent report in Malaysiakini, it was stated that election watchdog Bersih had called out Sarawak Chief Minister Abang Johari Openg and other Gabungan Parti Sarawak leaders for using their position to campaign by announcing projects or allocations, officiating at government events, and signing state government MoU for projects.
The people have a right to know if such MoUs will not be entered into by the candidates and that the spirit and letter of the constitution will be strenuously upheld.
The last two issues have been much discussed in the media so I’ll just mention them here.
Secondly, the people have the right to know if the candidates will expose every act of corruption in the state without fear or favour. Can the candidates promise to work towards instituting policies that give no room for corruption?
Thirdly, the people have the right to know if the candidates will ensure sustainable development practices so that the state is well-prepared for natural disasters.
If the candidates address these issues, and their responses are well-received by the people, it may encourage a higher voter turnout by people truly hopeful of a better future. And, that may work out in the Opposition’s favour, not just in the Johor elections but in the general elections as well.