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Thursday, 28 August 2014

Is Pakatan courting trouble?

For first time, two parties in the Pakatan Rakyat have stood up to the Palace in the mentri besar saga in Selangor. PKR and DAP have submitted one name for the MB candidacy - in spite of the Sultan’s decree to have more than two names from each party – but their ally PAS has apparently broken away from the other two parties’ decision.

IN an unprecedented confrontation with the Selangor Palace, PKR and DAP have decided that they will only submit one name for the mentri besar candidacy despite the decree for more than two names.

The Palace on Tuesday decreed that all parties submit two or more names for consideration.

PAS, an ally in Pakatan Rakyat, has announced it will abide by the decree and submit more than two names, probably PKR president Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Ismail and deputy president Azmin Ali.

But PKR and DAP met late Tuesday and decided they will only submit one name – Dr Wan Azizah’s.

This decision brings the Pakatan coalition, minus PAS, on a direct and unprecedented collision course with the Palace.

It places Pakatan in a precarious position not only with main ally PAS but also with the Palace.

The Palace is an important of source of power and legitimacy in the country’s political system and usually one does not confront it head on but this is what PKR and DAP appear to have done.

With PAS not going along with the decision, the coalition looks like it is beginning to unravel, its unity of purpose lost and its single-minded obsession to capture Putrajaya all but gone.

What Selangor’s Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah did on Tuesday is constitutionally mandated – accepting the resignation of Mentri Besar Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim but also asking him to continue until a new state chief is appointed.

In the meantime, the Sultan relied on well-established convention, decreeing that each of the three parties submit two or more names to him for consideration.

What could be more natural than these decisions?

Earlier, as the crisis developed, Pakatan leaders were worried that Khalid might seek to dissolve the state assembly and call for a snap election. That did not happen when the Sultan instead accepted Khalid’s resignation.

He asked the parties to submit names so that he could make a wise decision as to who should lead Selangor, the richest state in the federation.

But within hours of that decision, both PKR and DAP held emergency meetings and resolved to submit only Dr Wan Azizah’s name, openly challenging the Palace.

They were not only prolonging the crisis but knocking heads with their ally PAS and setting themselves on a collision course with the Palace.

The Palace’s decisions are constitutional if one accepts that it is an integral part of the country’s political system.

While the Palace strictly follows the parliamentary principles that a mentri besar who loses his majority in the state assembly should step down, it could also ask for replacement names to make an apt choice.

Like it or not, the Sultan is part and parcel of our political system and his role has evolved from an absolute Ruler to a constitutional one.

However, he still has powers under the system and these powers are recognised by some PAS leaders but apparently not by those in DAP and PKR.

Some questioned the powers of the Rulers and even have been charged with sedition.

Others argue that royals have a role to play and point to conventions allowing it, conventions that are customs and have over time become unwritten law and accepted by the people.

In 2008 and 2013, the Pakatan parties were united and submitted Khalid’s name for mentri besar and it was readily accepted.

This time round, PAS has all but broken away from the unity pact and opposed many decisions made by PKR and DAP.

The onus now is on Pakatan to get its act together and clean up the mess that was largely the creation of its infamous Kajang Move – an ill-thought out scheme to replace a serving assemblyman with Pakatan chief Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, and when that failed, his wife Dr Wan Azizah stepped in, becoming the Kajang assemblyman.

This scheme of things is at the centre of the current crisis.

As one commentator noted: “The Sultan is perhaps reluctant to consider Dr Wan Azizah because he doesn’t want his mentri besar to have her spouse in jail. It may be embarrassing for him.”

Perhaps this is the main reason why the Palace wants more than one name and why PAS is consistent in opposing the Kajang Move.

  • The views expressed are entirely the writer's own.

Tags / Keywords: Politics , Selangor , Mentri Besar , Khalid Ibrahim


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