It takes 2 to dissolve parliament

A RECENT survey by Ilham Centre finding that only supporters from Umno and Barisan Nasional (BN) were eager to have an early election is to be expected.

“The majority of voters do want this government to last until the end of the current term, because they do not feel the need for a general election to be called as soon as possible, not out of any support the government,” Hisommudin Bakar, the centre’s executive director, said.

“It means that, if necessary, the government can survive until the end of the term,” Hisommudin told The Malaysian Insight.

The Meteorological Department (MetMalaysia) has warned that the public should prepare for floods during the November northeast monsoon, with a forecast rainfall of anywhere between 100mm and 900mm.

Therefore, it is only logical that a general election should not be held during the flood season.

That aside, the prime minister cannot simply go to the king and request to dissolve parliament.

Article 40(2) of the Federal Constitution allows the king to act at his discretion. Otherwise, he, as constitutional monarch, acts on advice of the cabinet.

Even so, there is a view that the king has “residual discretion”, meaning he does not have to take this advice.

It is said that there is nothing in Article 40(1) or (1A) to obliterate this residual discretion.

This residual discretion can be seen recently when the king refused then prime minister Muhyiddin Yassin’s request to declare a nationwide state of emergency in October 2020.

The king’s refusal would seem to fly in the face of the Privy Council decision in Teh Cheng Poh v PP (1979) that the king’s functions “are those of a constitutional monarch and… he does not exercise any of his functions under the constitution on his own initiative but is required by Article 40(1) to act in accordance with the advice of the cabinet.”

However, constitutional experts say refusing to declare an emergency has “sound constitutional basis”.

Prof Shad Saleem Faruqi said: “In addition to Article 40(2), there are probably other instances in which residual, reserve, prerogative and inherent powers of the king may come into play.”

According to Shad, life is larger than the law and no constitution is exhaustive or can anticipate every contingency.

The late Sultan Azlan Shah wrote in 1986: “A king is a king, whether he is an absolute or a constitutional monarch… It is a mistake to think that the role of a king is confined to what is laid down by the constitution. His role far exceeds those constitutional provisions.”

If so, where the king has a discretion clearly conferred by the Federal Constitution itself, why the clamour for the prime minister to call for an immediate general election?

It takes a request from the prime minister to the king and the king to consent. In other words, it takes two to dissolve parliament. – September 21, 2022.

* Hafiz Hassan reads The Malaysian Insight.

* This is the opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of The Malaysian Insight. Article may be edited for brevity and clarity.

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