Snap Polls “Not a Given” if Umno, PAS Quit PN

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Speculation is rife that Umno and PAS may pull out of Perikatan Nasional and trigger snap polls following recent statements that Muafakat Nasional is not only prepared for elections, but willing to go it alone.

What the king can do:

  • Call for snap polls
  • Appoint a new prime minister
  • Allow an alternative government to take over

PN has a razor-thin majority of two parliamentary seats. The coalition has 114 lawmakers, with Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin’s Bersatu controlling 32 seats.

One of the questions making the rounds is, if Umno and PAS, with their 39 and 18 seats, respectively, were to jointly pull out of PN, would it automatically result in snap polls?

“No, it is not a given because the king has the right to say ‘no’ to a dissolution of Parliament,” constitutional expert Prof Shad Saleem Faruqi told The Malaysian Insight.

TMI

“It is quite clear under the federal constitution, Article 40, Clause 2(b), where it is stated that the king can withhold consent to a request for the dissolution of Parliament.”

Umno president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said his party is ready for the 15th general election in a recent Facebook post, where he is pictured receiving a courtesy call at his home from former prime minister Najib Razak.

Najib, who will know on July 28 the verdict in the first of his five criminal trials, is said to be behind a nationwide Umno campaign to gear up for snap polls to reinstall him as prime minister, according to claims by the opposition.

PAS, meanwhile, has said PN will band together going into GE15.

Secretary-general Takiyuddin Hassan said he is confident PN parties will drive the efforts and machinery to face the elections.

Shad Saleem, however, said if Umno and PAS withdraw, Muhyiddin will be in a dilemma.

“He will have two choices. The first is to resign and pave the way for the Agong to appoint someone else.

“The other is to advise the king to dissolve the House and call for elections,” said the Judicial Appointments Commission member.

The king can refuse because he may feel this is not the right time, given the Covid-19 pandemic and economic situation, said Shad Saleem, adding that it will cost the government about half a billion ringgit to hold polls.

“A snap election will probably cost more due to the short notice. Everything will have to be prepared quickly, including the ink.”

He said it is also possible that the king will allow an alternative government to take over.

“If the king says ‘no’, the prime minister may have to find an alternative government to run the country. And that is the challenge.”

A precedent was set in the landmark case of Mohammad Nizar Jamaluddin v Zambry Abdul Kadir, where Umno’s Zambry in 2010 won a suit in the Federal Court to be recognised as the rightful Perak menteri besar, following the state’s constitutional crisis.

The apex court ruled that the sultan had the right to reject a request for snap polls.

Constitutional lawyer Surendra Ananth said taking a cue from the Perak crisis, the king can appoint a new prime minister once he has the view that Muhyiddin no longer enjoys majority support.

“If Umno and PAS pull out and declare they no longer support Muhyiddin as prime minister, that should mean he no longer commands the confidence of the majority, assuming he actually did to begin with.

Firdaus Latif

“He must either resign or advise the Yang di-Pertuan Agong to dissolve Parliament. The king has the discretion to say ‘no’ to his request. It’s not an automatic (dissolution of Parliament).”

Lim Wei Jiet, also a constitutional lawyer, said the king has the right to choose a leader in a political impasse.

Yusof Mat Isa

“The king can withhold his consent (for fresh elections) and appoint another person as prime minister instead.”

Hung Parliament a likely scenario

In the event that the king – with or without the advice of the prime minister – calls for snap polls, it will likely return a hung Parliament, as both Gabungan Parti Sarawak and Parti Warisan Sabah are expected to declare that they will stand on their own, said Wong Chin Huat.

The political scientist, who specialises in political parties and the electoral system, said to have a simple majority, a coalition or party must win close to 112 out of the 165 seats in the peninsula and make up for any shortage with whatever they can get from Sabah and Sarawak.

“It does not look possible that Umno and PAS can drive Pakatan Harapan and Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s seats in Peninsular Malaysia to below 53.”

He believes the performance of both parties as a pact in the peninsula depends on the acceptance of the common candidate among their grassroots.

“This is easy in states where one side is strong – Johor, Negri Sembilan, Malacca, Kedah, Penang and Perlis – but harder for states where both sides are equal or closer in ambition if not strength, such as Kelantan, Terengganu, Pahang, Selangor, Perak and Kuala Lumpur.”

Another factor is voter sentiment, which translates into both turnout and choice, said Wong.

“Being in the government is a double-edged sword – it has the resources, but it also cannot blame PH for what is currently wrong in the administration.

“Whether or not PH can get its act together – both at the elite and mass levels – becomes key.

TMI

“I would not draw the conclusion that victory is a sure thing for Umno and PAS, even though they seem to stand a stronger chance, especially if turnout is low.”

– TMI