Fixed term may be unconstitutional, say some MPs

PETALING JAYA: While some MPs have backed the idea of introducing a Fixed-Term Parliament Act (FTPA) to maintain political stability, others warn that such a law may not be suitable for Malaysia and may even be unconstitutional.

Lawmakers supporting the FTPA argued that it would prevent governments from being ousted midway through their term, such as what occurred in February 2020 when the then Pakatan Harapan administration lost power due to its MPs defecting.

Those against it claim that an FTPA would dilute the power of the Yang Di-Pertuan Agong to summon and dissolve Parliament.

It would also allow a prime minister who has lost the confidence of a majority of parliamentarians to remain in power, they added.

Tenggara MP Manndzri Nasib refuted this point, saying that the FTPA would still preserve the powers of the King to consent to the formation of the government based on the results of a general election.

“It (FTPA) will ensure the stability of an administration and the idea is based on our recent experience where we witnessed political instability,” said Manndzri of Barisan Nasional, a coalition that is part of the unity government.

Pontian MP Datuk Seri Ahmad Maslan said an FTPA would allow any elected administration to govern effectively without constantly having to look out for conspiracies to topple it.

“We do not want to see one Yang di-Pertuan Agong having to appoint four different prime ministers in one term.

“Despite having the support of 152 MPs, we are still hearing talk of efforts to disrupt the current government and claims that they have enough statutory declarations (SD), which is very disturbing and hinders us from doing our work for the people,” added Ahmad, who is also a deputy minister in the Madani administration.

Kota Baru MP Datuk Seri Takiyuddin Hassan, however, argued that an FTPA could allow a government to remain in power despite losing the support of the majority of MPs in Parliament – the central pillar of its mandate.Takiyuddin said the Constitution states that a prime minister who loses the parliamentary majority should resign along with his Cabinet.

“In that situation, the King should replace the prime minister with someone who has proven to have the majority support of MPs.

“PAS believes that the Constitution provides for this and related practices around the world are in line with the idea of democracy itself, that a government will only be considered valid as long as it enjoys the support of the majority,” said Takiyuddin, of PAS, a party in the Perikatan Nasional federal Opposition coalition.

“Therefore, any effort to stop that core principle, whether through new laws or undemocratic actions, is rejected definitively,” he added.

Also opposing any FTPA is Beluran MP Datuk Seri Ronald Kiandee, who said the law could violate Article 55 of the Federal Constitution regarding the powers of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong to summon, prorogue, and dissolve Parliament.

“Furthermore, if this proposal is allowed, the question arises about the King’s authority to deal with a prime minister who no longer commands the majority support in the Dewan Rakyat, as outlined under Article 43 of the Constitution,” said Kiandee of Bersatu, another Perikatan party.

While he also disagreed with the proposed FTPA, Pasir Gudang MP Hassan Abdul Karim suggested a compromise – amending Article 43(4) of the Constitution to state clearly in writing that a prime minister’s mandate should be determined in Parliament through either a motion of confidence or no confidence.

“It has to also be clearly stated that the Speaker has no power to block any motion to determine the legitimacy of the prime minister’s support in Parliament,” said Hassan of PKR, which is part of the unity government.

An FTPA is unsuitable for Malaysia as the country is a parliamentary democracy and not a republic like the United States, Indonesia, the Philippines or France, where their presidents are elected for a fixed term, he added.

“Malaysia practises the same system as the Westminster model, where MPs’ seats will decide which party can form the government.

“A parliamentary democracy and a constitutional monarchy that is guided by the Federal Constitution, which has been tested for over 60 years since independence, is more suitable for Malaysia,” Hassan said.

Another government MP, Syerleena Abdul Rashid, said that political stability can exist by nurturing democratic institutions, fostering a culture of political integrity, and crafting laws that balance stability with democratic ideals.

“Could introducing laws to streamline the process of replacing the PM be the answer?

“Imagine a system where certain checks and balances – perhaps a minimum term or specific conditions for a no-confidence motion – bring a measure of predictability to our political landscape,” she said.

“But let’s tread carefully – the essence of democracy must not be lost in our quest for stability,” said Syerleena, the Bukit Bendera MP from DAP.

Related stories:

In-depth study on FTPA idea

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