Malaysia's political crisis highlights crucial role of the King

  • Nation
  • Thursday, 27 Feb 2020

A file picture of Sultan Abdullah giving his speech at the opening of the second session of the 14th Parliament on March 11, 2019. – Bernama

KUALA LUMPUR (Bernama): The ongoing political crisis in the nation has brought to the fore the crucial role played by the institution of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong.

As supreme head of state, Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri'ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah's intervention and the wisdom he exercised to seek a solution to the political crisis proved that the office of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong is not merely symbolic.

Constitutional law expert Associate Prof Dr Shamrahayu Abdul Aziz said the significance of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong's role has now come to the fore as the ongoing realignment of the political landscape warranted the King to exercise his role as mediator.

"Certain difficulties have surfaced during this political crisis, especially when dealing with some sensitive matters and legal questions not clearly stated in the Constitution.

"However, the Yang di-Pertuan Agong has demonstrated his wisdom and the people are now more confident than ever that the political crisis will be resolved smoothly. As supreme head of state, the role of His Majesty in determining who the nation's prime minister will be is the most challenging," Shamrahayu told Bernama.

Different circumstances

Last Sunday (Feb 23), several PKR and Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia leaders had an audience with the Yang di-Pertuan Agong which fuelled speculation that the two parties were leaving Pakatan Harapan and looking to form a new ruling coalition.

On Monday, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad resigned as prime minister and chairman of Bersatu. Al-Sultan Abdullah accepted Dr Mahathir's resignation and consented to the appointment of the latter as interim prime minister.

His Majesty also revoked the appointments of the deputy prime minister, ministers, deputy ministers and political secretaries effective the same day.

Shamrahayu said the functions of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong may not have been clear to the people previously.

"The situation now is not the same as before. I think the role and power of the King have become more visible now and the institution will play a bigger role in time to come," she added.

Shamrahayu said the constitutional monarchy practised by Malaysia differed from that of England where, unlike Malaysia, any decision made by the monarchy must secure the approval of Parliament.

Al-Sultan Abdullah also made the unprecedented move of meeting and interviewing all MPs personally on Tuesday and Wednesday (Feb 25 and 26) to seek the best possible solution to the nation's political uncertainty – the first such session at federal level.

(At the state level, a meeting between former Sultan of Perak Sultan Azlan Shah and state assemblymen was convened in 2009 to resolve a political crisis in the state. Yesterday, all 56 state assemblymen in Johor were told to meet Sultan of Johor Sultan Ibrahim Iskandar to resolve the current political crisis.)

Shamrahayu said this approach would become a turning point in the nation's history in establishing a convention or constitutional practice for the country to take a stand on certain matters outlined in the Federal Constitution.

She said the move also showed that the King understood the MPs' anxiety, to the extent that His Majesty gave them space to personally express their views to him.

"The wise approach taken by the King will hopefully bring justice to all the parties concerned. It is also proof that His Majesty is performing his duties in a fair and just manner, as required in the oath of office of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong under the Fourth Schedule of the Federal Constitution," said Shamrahayu.

Constitutional provisions

The Ruler's is indicated in several provisions in the Federal Constitution, including Article 39 which states that the executive authority of the federation shall be vested in the Yang di-Pertuan Agong and exercisable by him.

In the context of the current political scenario, this provision is the basis for the appointment of an interim prime minister by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong.

"Article 40(2) provides the Yang di-Pertuan Agong discretionary power to appoint the prime minister but the person to be appointed as prime minister must be a member of Parliament who, in the King's judgement, is likely to command the confidence of the majority of the members of the Dewan Rakyat," added Shamrahayu,

Apart from the above two conditions, the Yang di-Pertuan Agong must make sure that the candidate for the office of prime minister is not a citizen by naturalisation or by registration (Article 43[7]).

She also said that another provision related to the power of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong was Article 55(2), which allows the King to dissolve or prorogue (discontinue a session of Parliament without dissolving it) Parliament.

"It's important for all Malaysians to understand the role and functions of our nation's institution of monarchy, both at the federal and state levels," she added. – Bernama

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