The 3 choices in front of Agong

K. Kabilan

Istana Negara is dealing with an unprecedented situation with the Agong interviewing 220 lawmakers to decide who commands a majority to lead the next government. – EPA pic, February 27, 2020.

AFTER interviewing 220 lawmakers, the Yang di-Pertuan Agong has three options to solve the unprecedented political crisis stemming from Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s resignation as prime minister.

The options are choose the most popular choice, Anwar Ibrahim; stick to Dr Mahathir, who is now interim prime minister; or get the prime minister’s advice to dissolve Parliament.

Over the last two days, the king had seen the MPs in batches, giving them each two to three minutes, to find out who among them enjoys the support of the majority in the 222-seat Dewan Rakyat.

Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah asked MPs to give him their preferred choice for prime minister or indicate that Parliament should be dissolved for fresh elections.

Of the 222 MPs, only Umno’s Nazri Aziz failed to keep his date with the ruler as he was overseas. Interim Prime Minister Dr Mahathir was the only MP exempted.

Here is a quick look on what the Agong can do next:

1. Allow Anwar to form minority government

Yesterday, after meeting the ruler, PKR leaders were quick to point out that they had named Anwar as their prime ministerial candidate. Later in the evening, it was officially confirmed that Pakatan Harapan had switched support from Dr Mahathir to nominate Anwar as their candidate.

A PH statement said the switch was due to Dr Mahathir’s failure to accept their invitation to chair a leadership council meeting on Tuesday.

An open note by DAP narrated PH’s change of stance on this matter. The party said it urged Dr Mahathir to remain the PH prime minister after he had resigned on Monday.

But on Tuesday, Dr Mahathir spoke about wanting to form a cross-party cabinet after receiving support from all the parties across the board.

This allows Dr Mahathir a free hand on who will be ministers, without the need to consult DAP or other parties.

“Effectively, it is a Dr Mahathir government and not a PH government. The promises of the PH manifesto will not be fulfilled,” said the DAP note which is being shared by all its MPs.

Should Anwar Ibrahim lead a minority government, he’ll need to survive a vote of confidence at every turn. – The Malaysian Insight pic by Hasnoor Hussain., February 27, 2020.

As it stands, Anwar is said to have the support of 92 MPs from PKR, DAP and Amanah. This is more than the 64 who want Dr Mahathir to remain the PM.

Both Barisan Nasional and PAS, holding a total of 61 MPs, comprising Umno (39), PAS (18), MCA (2), MIC (1) and PBRS have informed the Agong that they would prefer snap elections.

The stand of six others is unknown.

As Anwar’s faction has the largest number, the Agong could then invite him to form a minority government, a first in the history of the nation.

Leading a minority government means Anwar would face challenges at every turn from the other MPs.

Among his first tasks would be to face off confidence motions against him when the Parliament sits in March.

Anwar and his cabinet may end up fighting hard to hold on to their government instead of delivering their promised reforms. It would also be a challenge for them to get the support from all MPs for constitutional amendments needed to fulfil the reform promises.

2. Let Dr Mahathir continue as PM

The Agong can also consider allowing Dr Mahathir to be reappointed as prime minister if he can show that he has the support of the 60 who named him as their choice, as well as from the others from BN and PAS.

If this happens, Dr Mahathir’s government will also be a minority government, with an even smaller number of MPs supporting him.

The interim prime minister in a television address to the nation yesterday indicated the type of government he would form if allowed to be the prime minister – a non-partisan national administration.

“If allowed, I will try and form a government that does not side with any party. Only the country’s interest will be given priority,” he said in his first public address since resigning on Monday.

He said politicians and political parties are putting too much emphasis on politics, to the detriment of economic and health issues facing the country.

It remains to be seen if the Agong would want to “gamble” with this choice.

3. Dissolve Parliament and call for snap polls

BN and PAS, which first expressed support for Dr Mahathir, thinking that he would incorporate them in the federal government to replace PH, had a change of heart when they met the king.

“We asked the Agong for his consent for Parliament to be dissolved,” said Umno secretary-general Annuar Musa.

“In the current situation, the mandate should be returned to the people, and we asked that Parliament be dissolved so that the people can vote.”

PH, however, is not keen, arguing that a general election would be a waste of public funds.

According to Article 43(4) of the federal constitution, if no one commands the support of the majority, the Agong can dissolve Parliament, paving the way for snap elections.

However, the ruler can only dissolve the government on the advice of the prime minister, whether permanent or caretaker.

According to Attorney-General Tommy Thomas, as interim prime minister, Dr Mahathir has full powers, just as those attached to the powers of the office of the prime minister, which include being able to appoint cabinet members if he chooses to do so.

This means Dr Mahathir, as the interim prime minister, will be the person to advise the Agong on dissolving Parliament.

Dr Mahathir is set to announce later today the government’s financial stimulus to counter the Covid-19 outbreak. Whether this remains his last official duty or not remains to be seen. – February 27, 2020.

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  • What baffles me is: How can someone who resigned and caused the who mess be rewarded with a second chance to become the interim PM again? The option of making the leader with the most support PM looks better, and logical. Of course another GE is the best option.

    Posted 4 years ago by Citizen Pencen · Reply

  • What or who is the source for this article? Is it credible? How can option 2 be possible if it is not the largest minority block?

    Posted 4 years ago by A Subscriber · Reply

  • The situation is still fluid.
    But expect the Unexpected.
    A White Knight is coming !

    Posted 4 years ago by Amiruddin Abdul · Reply

  • Now with the support of majority of MPs, AI should be appointed as the interim PM. Tun can bow out.

    Posted 4 years ago by Tanahair Ku · Reply

  • Dr Mahathir has manipulated the entire sordid episode to lay the groundwork for an unfettered presidential style of administration. This is anathema to the Westminster system that we claim to follow. Dr Mahathir's machinations should be firmly rebuffed and Anwar must be given the opportunity to administer, after proving a working majority in Parliament. This is not impossible in the current scenario.

    Posted 4 years ago by Simple Sulaiman · Reply

  • Mahathir cannot advise the King on dissolving the Parliament because he has no standing. He himself is involved in this whole crisis possibly started by him too.

    Posted 4 years ago by Elyse Gim · Reply