PETALING JAYA: Election Commission (EC) chairman Datuk Azhar Azizan Harun (pic) has been tipped to become the new Dewan Rakyat Speaker.
According to sources within the EC, his resignation as EC chief on Monday had fuelled talk that he will replace current Speaker Tan Sri Mohamad Ariff Md Yusof.
Azhar, popularly known as Art Harun, was appointed as EC chief in September 2018.
The sources said the choice of Azhar as Speaker came as a “shock” as it was not expected.
“The plans for electoral reforms are still pending and there is still much for him to do. We hope that whoever replaces him will continue with the reform agenda,” the sources said.
They also said that as most of the current EC commissioners came in along with Azhar, questions have arisen whether they would remain once Azhar leaves.
Another source said the choice of candidates for the EC chair had been left to Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin.
The Kedah-born Azhar has law degrees with honours from Universiti Malaya and with merit from King’s College London and the University of London.
He began his legal career in 1987 at Allen & Gledhill, and in 1992, he started working with KH Koh, Azhar & Koh.
He has also worked at several other renowned legal firms and has expertise in laws related to elections.
Meanwhile, according to another source, the decision behind the choice of a non-MP to be nominated as Parliament Speaker was because Perikatan Nasional required all its MPs to be on the floor in the event of a no-confidence motion initiated by Pakatan Harapan MPs against Muhyiddin’s leadership.
“Muhyiddin needs every MP he has on the floor. So the Speaker has to be a non-MP,” said the source.
Others who are also in the running for the post included former Speaker Tan Sri Pandikar Amin Mulia and a former judge.
The candidate for the Speaker’s post so far has been kept tightly under wraps, but the Prime Minister may still spring a surprise at the last minute, said the source.
It was reported that the start of Parliament on July 13 may see attempts by the Perikatan Nasional administration to “remove” Mohamad Ariff and Deputy Speaker Nga Kor Ming, both of whom were elected to their post by the Pakatan Harapan administration in 2018.
It is learnt that two motions were submitted by the Prime Minister last Friday evening, which are to be tabled in Parliament to remove both Mohamad Ariff and Nga.
According to the source, the motion was submitted by Muhyiddin just 10 minutes before the 5pm submission deadline of parliamentary motions.
“It was an ambush and the Opposition had no time to propose its own candidates,” said the source.
Talk has been rife that Pengerang MP Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said will replace Nga as Deputy Speaker.
However, Azalina, who is a former minister in charge of law, told The Star that it was too “premature” to respond to this.
“A motion to replace and elect the (Deputy Speaker) will need to be tabled in Parliament,” she said.
The source also noted that the move to replace Mohamad Ariff and Nga was carried out in accordance to Article 57 of the Federal Constitution.
Under Article 57 (2) and (2A), it is stated that the Speaker and his deputy may at any time resign in writing from their position when the House first meets after a general election, when they cease to be a member of the House, or if the House at any time so resolves.
Article 57(3) of the Federal Constitution also states that in the absence of the Speaker, “one of the Deputy Speakers or, if both the Deputy Speakers are absent or if both their offices are vacant, such other member as may be determined by the rules of procedure of the House, shall act as Speaker”.
Parliamentary convention dictates that the Speaker’s position falls vacant in one of the following three circumstances – when Parliament is dissolved for a general election, when the Speaker passes away in office, or when the Speaker resigns.
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