Tag Archives: GE15

Sabri’s last national duty

Prime Minister Ismail Sabri has announced the dissolution of Parliament, paving the way for the 15th General Election (GE15) to be held within 60 days, but his job is not yet done. There is still one more very important national duty to perform before he leaves office and the next government takes over.

Sabri’s last task is extremely crucial. It is overseeing the formation of the next coalition government according to the rule of law within the ambit of the federal constitution.

As it is, no party or current partnership is going to win a majority of seats in GE15 to form the next government by itself. The party/coalition with the most seats will have to seek other partners to form a government with a majority.

The caretaker government under Sabri’s leadership will have to ensure that a procedure is set in place for the party with the most seats to form a government. Right now no such procedure exists and a repeat of former Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin’s coup when he seized control of the government based on his appointment as prime minister by the Agong without proving his majority must not happen.

Sabri needs to seek the counsel of constitutional experts and work with the Attorney-General’s Chambers and the Speaker of the Dewan Rakyat to develop a procedure for politicians to follow once the election results are out. He should also advise the Agong on the procedure as it is the Agong who installs the new government if he is sure it has a majority, as stipulated by the constitution.

A good example to emulate is the British Parliament where a party that fails to win an outright majority seeks partners and faces a confidence vote in Parliament. If the party wins the confidence vote, it meets the head of state, King Charles III — in Malaysia, it is the Agong — who then installs the new government.

In this model of parliamentary democracy, the majority is proven in Parliament first and then the vote is presented to the head of state as proof of a majority. It is indisputable because Parliament has proven it and has records of it.

If a procedure is not devised before GE15, chaos will follow the elections, especially if no party/coalition/partnership has a majority. Parties will do all sorts of things to grab power in the name of “Malay unity”, “saving Malaysia” and/or “national interests” and ignore the rules. If Umno/Barisan Nasional wins the most seats, one can expect this once-favoured spoilt brat to throw tantrums and get away with it as it always has.

To avoid this period of political instability, it would be wise for Sabri to give priority to putting in place a procedure to ensure an orderly and constitutionally acceptable search for partners to form a coalition with a majority.

The normal procedure is for the Agong to first call the party/coalition/partnership with the most seats to seek a majority with other partners. If it fails, the next party/coalition/partnership will be called to do the same and if that fails, too, the next will be called until a party/coalition/partnership is formed. That has to be proven by a confidence or no-confidence vote in Parliament. Only then does the prime minister-designate meet the Agong and a date is fixed for the installation of the new government.

Sabri can not and must not leave this matter unaddressed. Neither should he leave it to the Dewan Rakyat Speaker to manage the formation of a government with a majority. Not being a parliamentarian, Speaker Azhar Harun may be unable to perform this vital duty to manage a smooth transition of power to a legitimate coalition government. If he is left to undertake this responsibility on his own, it may end up in controversial decisions as in the past.

As the current Speaker was appointed and not elected, he is beholden to the executive and this is one occasion when the prime minister can and should direct him to introduce a confidence or no-confidence vote in Parliament to prove a coalition’s claim of a majority.

If Sabri does this last job well, and a new government is formed and installed legitimately and orderly without the chaos of unanticipated disorder, he will earn his place in history among the leaders who contributed meaningfully to national development. If he fails he will be ranked with his predecessor Muhyiddin who helmed an illegitimate government which Sabri continued because both failed to grasp what parliamentary democracy is and the primary role the prime minister plays in upholding it.

Here’s an opportunity for Sabri to redeem himself and put the nation’s interest first and undertake to oversee the smooth and orderly transfer of power to a legitimate government. I have only suggested ideas here; he must get the input of professionals and constitutional experts to ensure that the transition to the next government is not fraught with shocks due to constitutional transgressions as what followed the Sheraton Moves and that political stability is maintained while a new government is being formed.

The people need Sabri to do this.


The power is in the people

If Pakatan Harapan (PH) parties PKR, DAP and Amanah are open to forging a pact with Umno post the 15th general elections (GE15), they should come out in the open and say so. They should not make non-committal statements and then after GE15 declare that they have no choice but to join forces with Umno. That would be deceiving the people!

DAP secretary-general Anthony Loke recently said that DAP may have to be open to working with Umno in order to form a majority government to save Malaysia. This was followed by a statement by PKR president Anwar Ibrahim who said that any alliance with Umno would only be a “worst-case” scenario.

Both these leaders’ statements clearly reveal that they are willing to work with Umno in the event no party or coalition wins a clear majority to form a government.

That should not be the case. Umno should not be allowed to form a government by itself or by leading a coalition of parties simply because it will see the return of money politics as has been revealed by the ongoing court cases. And only Opposition MPs can stop them by resisting them — not joining them!

If for whatever reason PH parties are open to forming an alliance with Umno, they should make their intentions clear to their voters before the latter goes to vote! If the voters still vote for them, then, of course, the parties are free to go ahead with any alliance with Umno.

The fact that they have not firmly declared their intention seems to imply that PH parties are not confident their voters will accept their reasoning if they expressed it, which can only suggest that PH parties are playing a game with the voters by not clearly stating their stand on this issue.

Don’t deceive the voters. PH parties are already facing a credibility gap judging by the fact that they have lost most of the seats they held in the recent state elections, which means their voters are unsure of the credibility of their leaders.

If PH parties want to restore their credibility in the eyes of the voters, tell them the truth and explain the difficult position their parties are in and trust the judgment of the voters.

PH parties need to understand that there is no such thing as a “worst-case scenario”, as if they have no choice. The truth is that they have a choice but they don’t want to take it.

The choice is in two areas. Firstly, they have to work with other opposition parties not necessarily in a coalition but in a loose collaboration where opposition parties do not undermine each other. As a result, should the election results favour them, it would be easier to form a coalition government.

Even if Umno turns out to be the Malay-based party with the largest number of seats (considering the negative publicity created by the court cases of its leaders, the figure may be less than the 39 seats Umno currently holds), and if no party joins it, Umno will be unable to form a government.

However, the combined number of Malay seats and non-Malay seats won by Opposition parties will be sufficient to form a government. In other words, Umno can be ignored and should be!

Secondly, Anwar has to rethink his ambition to become prime minister. If after an honest explanation to the voters, PKR wins more seats, Anwar will be in a commanding position to negotiate with fellow Opposition parties, including regarding his candidature as PM.

If, however, he fails to win enough seats he will have to accept the fact that he has lost leverage to negotiate and go along with other nominations for the premiership.

The confidence to negotiate comes from the support MPs get from the grassroots. Malaysian politicians need to understand that their confidence comes not from government positions or who they know or pacts and alliances but from their voter base.

There is no point in holding government positions and making a mess of governance as we have witnessed in the past two years. And, there’s no point in submitting memorandums to the king to call for a royal commission of inquiry as Bersatu and Amanah politicians did with regard to the RM6 billion spent on ships that were not delivered. What can the king do aside from making a comment like he did regarding the Smoking and Tobacco Control Act where he added that it was up to Parliament to resolve the issue?

The king knows what Malaysian politicians don’t seem to understand: that the latter has been vested with authority by the constitution to resolve such issues in Parliament. The fact that Malaysian politicians immediately seek the king’s or China’s or the US’s help simply reflects their own lack of confidence to navigate the authority bestowed on them to solve political issues. If they can’t solve problems, how on earth can they govern and, therefore, why elect them?

Confidence comes from the support of the voter base. So, it is to them that politicians must first go to get support. Former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad understands this very well and that is the reason why he has got small parties, including his own, Pejuang, to form Gerakan Tanah Air (GTA) which plans to contest in Umno-held seats.

GTA may lose all the seats it contests in GE15 or it may win a few which would dent Umno’s count of MPs. GTA should not be written off. If it wins some seats from Umno, it may be a game changer in GE15 because it means a loss of support for Umno from its very own voter base. That may trigger a domino effect and swing support to GTA.

This happened to some extent in GE14. GTA is new and with little support. That support may pick up in the near future. Until then it is hard to predict if GTA will lose all or win some in GE15. But the strategy of going to the people is commendable. GTA just needs more believers to follow it.

A compromise …

Pejuang has declared that if it wins the 15th General Elections (GE15) it wants its chairman, former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, as prime minister. The party is riding on the stature and support that Tun is still able to command from the people. The question, however, is if these factors are enough to put Pejuang candidates in Parliament to form the next government.

Tun, no doubt, has considerable support from the people as evidenced in the Johor state elections. Although the party lost in all the constituencies it contested, it garnered 1.8% or 18,000 of the total votes. However, the votes were distributed over the state. There was no evidence in the Johor state elections that there was a significant concentration of support for Pejuang in any one of the constituencies to effectively change the outcome of the results.

In other words, Tun’s support is spread all over the country but not necessarily concentrated in any particular constituency where it can win. So, Pejuang needs to think carefully as to the wisdom of going it alone in the GE15 in the hope it can form the next government on Tun’s support.

On the other hand, if Pejuang joined a coalition, Tun’s widely-distributed support can be significant in giving the edge to the coalition candidate, enabling the coalition to win the election and form the next government. Pejuang’s survival, perhaps, lies in working with the opposition coalition rather than going it alone.

In fact, all the opposition parties stand to lose rather than win if each goes it alone in the GE15. The outcomes of their contests may be no different from the results they obtained in the Malacca and Johor state elections where they were wiped out losing the seats they held and winning only a handful!

The “Big Tent” strategy is the best course of action for all the opposition parties if the overriding priority in GE15 is to prevent Umno from returning to power.

Should Pejuang win a sufficient number of seats while going it alone and then decides to form a coalition with allies with Tun as prime minister, Pakatan Harapan (PH) parties may not oblige. The consequence could be a hung Parliament — again!

Opposition leader and PKR president Anwar Ibrahim has already made it clear in a recent media statement that his grassroots are not open to Tun Dr Mahathir being prime minister again and that it would be difficult for him to convince them to agree with Pejuang’s plan.

PKR grassroots and PH may want Anwar to become the next prime minister although it is unlikely that either he or Tun will assume the post if their parties go it alone in the GE15!

The candidacy for the premiership may become a divisive factor in preventing a formidable alternative opposition coalition from being formed. The solution, perhaps, is for neither to become prime minister.

Let the opposition parties choose a candidate for the premiership that both senior leaders can work with and accept, and all coalition partners back the nomination. This will remove the block to the formation of a strong and viable opposition coalition to challenge Umno/Barisan Nasional.

Such a compromise is needed for the formation of an opposition alliance that has a chance of winning the GE15.