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Perak snap polls inevitable?

COULD fresh state elections in Perak, which Barisan Nasional (BN) worked so hard to avoid, happen after all?

In its haste to topple the Pakatan Rakyat (PR) state government, BN rushed to grab three independents, and the Menteri Besar and executive councillor positions. But it appears to have forgotten the powerful Speaker in the state legislative assembly.

BN’s newly-installed Menteri Besar (MB) Datuk Zambry Abdul Kadir and his six executive councillors yesterday found themselves suspended from the assembly for 18 months and 12 months, respectively.

If the 59-seat house were to sit today, PR would have 27 assemblypersons on its side (the 28th being the Speaker) and BN only 21. The three independents are no longer members of the House, as far as PR is concerned.

This unprecedented move throws up questions about parliamentary democracies under a constitutional monarchy never before faced by Malaysia.

V Sivakumar
Can the Speaker, V Sivakumar from the DAP, run a House with an MB (Datuk Seri Mohammad Nizar Jamaluddin) who was sacked by the Sultan? Was the Speaker’s move sub judice considering that a court case to declare the appointments of Zambry and his exco illegitimate is still pending?

Lawyers are at loggerheads over what has been done. But politically, it was a masterstroke by PR to drag the impasse in attempts to force a snap poll.

In limbo

The Perak state assembly must convene before May 13, six months from its last sitting on 13 Nov 2008.

With Zambry and his excos out of the House, it is possible that PR would call a special assembly to vote out the BN government earlier, in the middle of the Umno party elections which are from 24 to 28 March.

To forestall that, Zambry and his excos could go to court to seek a declaration that the suspensions were ultra vires. But even that would take time.

“If Sultan Azlan Shah wants to avoid a continued impasse, or worse, to have his appointments booted out through a vote in a special sitting, he would have to make a new decision on whether to allow a dissolution,” Perak Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) legal adviser Mohamed Asri Othman tells The Nut Graph.

The BN side is now locked in meetings to decide whether to take the suspensions up in court. Gerakan deputy president and Perak MCA chief Datuk Chang Ko Youn told The Nut Graph this morning via text message that they were still discussing the issue.

Chang, a lawyer, is advising the new BN state government on the impasse. Chang is also one of the special advisors with exco status appointed to assist Zambry on Chinese Malaysian affairs.

All powerful Speaker

Even without the suspensions, Perak was likely heading for a showdown in elections anyway.

“If the House is in constant deadlock, if bills cannot be passed, it would be bad for the state. Investors would not come, the state budget cannot be passed, the administration would grind to a halt. Ultimately, elections would be required,” says Asri, a former DAP deputy secretary-general, and the Dermawan assemblyperson in 1990.

All scenarios hinge on Speaker Sivakumar who holds wide-ranging powers and whose position gives him the authority of a High Court judge, Asri notes.

Law lecturer Prof Dr Abdul Aziz Bari of the International Islamic University adds that the Speaker’s decisions, if reached according to the House’s standing orders, are final and difficult to challenge in court.

“This was BN’s biggest mistake. They overlooked the problem with the Speaker,” he says.

Even if the assembly sat with all BN assemblypersons present, Sivakumar could:

block the entry of the three independents, Jamaluddin Mohd Radzi (Behrang), Mohd Osman Jailu (Changkat Jering) and deputy speaker Hee Yit Foong (Jelapang), and create a hung assembly with 28:28 ratio of BN:PR assemblypersons. The three PR party deserters have disputed their undated and pre-signed letters of resignations with the Election Commission. But as far as PR is concerned, they are resigned from their elected positions.

block any motion to pass a BN-initiated vote of no-confidence against Nizar; and,

block any attempt to vote him out as Speaker. The Speaker is elected by the House, and can only be removed by a vote, his resignation or if he ceases to become an assemblyperson.

Another possibility would be for all the 28 PR assemblypersons to protest the new BN government by not attending the assembly when it convenes.

“They would render the house dysfunctional. The BN assemblypersons on their own cannot elect a Speaker without first having removed Sivakumar. The House cannot proceed without a Speaker,” Asri says.

Partisan vs professionalism

Sivakumar’s powers as Speaker, and what he chooses to do with it, are lessons on being professional versus partisan.

Clearly, Sivakumar will continue to hold fast to PR’s stand that the palace-endorsed takeover of the state was illegal and unconstitutional.

But even in such a situation, should he act as Speaker or as PR representative?

“The Speaker has the power to block motions initiated by BN, but on what basis would he do this? He is supposed to be neutral. If Sivakumar’s decisions are biased, PR would be guilty of the same thing they complain about in Parliament regarding the Dewan Rakyat Speaker’s (lack of) neutrality,” says lawyer Andrew Khoo.

“This is where you need [leadership]. If PR refuses to let the assembly sitting proceed by throwing up obstacles at every juncture, then it is really a question of whether this is a political tactic to force elections,” Khoo notes.

People’s will?

PR can arguably say that the partisan actions of its Speaker are meant to let the will of the people settle the impasse through a snap poll.

Ipoh-based Asri believes this is inevitable. He speculates that Sultan Azlan Shah will be left with little choice.

He also believes that BN itself is considering this possibility, based on Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi’s statement that he will brief the Conference of Rulers on Perak’s political crisis at their next meeting.

“If BN now wants the state assembly to be dissolved, Umno akan malu. I wouldn’t be surprised if the PM will seek the advice of the Conference of Rulers on a dissolution. It would be convenient for Umno to say they have to abide by the Rulers’ decision as they have been rallying in support of the royalty.”

Considering Asri’s political affiliations, he may just be agitating for a snap poll. But if his speculations turn out to be true, what a bitter irony it would be for BN.

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16 Responses to “Perak snap polls inevitable?”

  1. Shane says:

    Ha ha ha!

    This is really interesting. Following-up from Indonesia, as the events unfold back home.

  2. Ellesse A says:

    Your article does not make sense of the political situation as claimed by your slogan. What is happening is extreme politics which does not benefit us. What Sivakumar did was just upping the ante. This game can be played further by BN as there are many options available under the law for BN. And you know what. It will not end. Everybody will be busy with partisan politics and not the service of the rakyat’s interest. This is utter rubbish.

    You should instead highlight this rubbish and condemn both parties. Enough is enough. Some may not like the status quo but let this be decided by the court. If PR is right, then they govern. If not, BN. Let’s focus on our livelihood now. Many more people will be out of work by July. Does this not matter?

  3. jeagerlange says:

    “Man plans but God directs.” No matter how hard and devious BN has been in trying to avoid a snap election, their sins will catch up with them. Easy come easy go. Simple equation. If they dare not even face the people in an election, they do not deserve to be YBs in the first place. Shame on BN!

  4. lee wee tak says:

    “The Speaker has the power to block motions initiated by BN, but on what basis would he do this? He is supposed to be neutral. If Sivakumar’s decisions are biased, PR would be guilty of the same thing they complain about in Parliament regarding the Dewan Rakyat Speaker’s (lack of) neutrality,” says lawyer Andrew Khoo.

    Andrew, please say the same thing about the holy trinity of the three Speakers at the federal level, thank you very much.

  5. Raven says:

    This political crisis was the making of the monarchy. A gamble if you will. People in the British Isles and old Europe were destitute and sidelined by Kings, Queens, Princes, Princesses, Lords, Knights, Barons, etc…no one had a God damned chance to come up in life until they made their way to the New World…the United States. Which is why the US still sneers at monarchies throughout the world and only befriends them if they are useful to the US.

    Malaysia had a golden chance to rid itself of the Sultanate at independence but instead not only kept it but further installed a weird rotational monarchial system which was designed to establish, perpetuate and consolidate powers the way Old World monarchies do. Perak MB, Nizar and Speaker Siva have just shown all Malaysians what a horrible drag and leechy parasitic Kings/Sultans can be.

    [Can we achieve] our dream of a true democracy? Perak will be the first step.

  6. sarawakian says:

    Hats off to you PR…We desprately need you in Sarawak…this is the difference between using the correct way or corruption and greed to get things done…Syabas PR (Political Reformation).

  7. atan says:

    Come on, don’t waste time anymore, call for a fresh elections. Let the people decide, once and for all.

  8. joseph chieng says:

    The people want AN ELECTION to solve the problem once and for all. And yet Umno’s habit of power grabbing show their muddle-headed thinking that the people can be fooled all the time. It is time they realise that once credibility is lost nobody will listen to what they say as it has been well known that they tend to say one thing and do another.

    Anwar Ibbrahim is also at fault for over-promising and under-delivering and this has come back to haunt him. As a seasoned politician, he should not underestimate the power of money which is apparant anywhere you look….money politics under the guise of Malay rights and privileges.

  9. D Lim says:

    These people are elected to represent their constituencies and they owe it to the people to explain their defection i.e. why they defected and how their defection will benefit the people.

    It can be they no longer believe in the direction of their former party etc. etc. If they fail to do so, then fresh elections should be called to let the people decide whether they agreed with what their representative has done.

    Failure to do so makes the people feel ‘cheated’, and rightly so, a democratic country would allow the people to have their say through by-elections. These people are elected to represent the rakyat, not the other way round!

  10. caravanserai says:

    Perak twist
    Bee Anne laughed at it
    Knowing the pot holes
    It will fall in

    The saga of Perak
    It will never end
    The backdoor power grab
    It isn’t the good omen

    Bee Anne and Harm Noh
    History is staring at it
    The sultan must wake up
    Listen to Perakians
    It isn’t glass and diamond
    It is peoples’ souls and minds

    Perak twist
    The limbo rock gyrating
    How low will it go?
    Perakians aren’t amused
    Time for snap state election
    It is the way to go

  11. nick chan says:

    Can the MB continue to work, running the state (City Hall and such) without the assembly?

  12. Melaysian says:

    Dream Scenario

    Abdullah uses Perak as an opportunity to have a proper referendum on Najib. If Perakians are pissed at Najib for his coup, the rest of the nation probably are, too. If Perakians are uncomfortable with Najib being PM, the rest of the nation probably are, too.

    Unlike Kuala Terengganu, a state wide election is more of a referendum.

    The Sivakumar move was brilliant!!

    The ball is now in Pak Lah’s court.

    Khairy, are you man enough?

  13. chinhuat says:

    Responding to Ellesse A: True, political stability can only be achieved when due process is observed. What the Speaker does at this stage is within the due process, while what the palace did was not.

    Such a deadlock between the executive and the legislative should not happen in a parliamentary system where the two branches are fused (rather than separated in a presidential system). The current stalemate shows how much harm an interventionist monarchy (instead of a constitutional one) can do to the parliamentary system.

    Tying the hand of PR from fighting back is not only wrong (unfair to them) but also bad (as you are more concerned with). Why? If elected governments can be overthrown outside ballot boxes, who would bother to spend their time and effort in carrying out good governance or representation so that they may win the next time? They would instead do more of what is effective.

    In other words, if the coup syndicate in Perak can get its way, you will soon find a similar problem – or may be different ones (haven’t we seen what has happened to Eli Wong) – in Kedah and Selangor.

    Forcing a fresh election is to tell all politicians – we, the people, are your boss. Perform or we will kick you out! It’s a clear message that “election is the only game in town in the pursuit of power”. What can be more assuring than this for political stability?

    The general mass is already angry. I wished the business sector would speak up, too and force a fresh poll.

    If you remain silent, the crisis may get deeper and if someone is stupid enough to resort to emergency rule, then you can expect the KLSE to crash.

    Kudos to Deborah for enlightening us on the technicalities.

  14. princess says:

    We continue to pray for a righteous government and for righteous leaders. May the good Lord thwart all the plans of evil men. Amen!

  15. hkm says:

    I am all for fresh elections. Stop wasting precious time for the political ding dong.

  16. Noyawns says:

    Just a couple of questions for this forum:

    i) what if Najib shoves Sivakumar into ISA? What happens to his role as speaker?

    ii) if there is a statewide election held and the results are similar (as in within one or three seats’ majority); this problem will be perpetuated with froggies ad infinitum?

    But the will of the people of Perak must be respected; the sultan should not withhold the dissolution of the assembly. Never mind that he has the right to do so. Let the people speak again to decide their government.

    If the Sultan is doing all this under duress from Najib; then the royal house has been dishonoured.

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