How to replace a Mentri Besar


WHILE the world is grappling with the aftermath of a series of commercial aircraft tragedies in the space of days, PKR is seemingly occupied with trying to replace Selangor Mentri Besar Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim. It is a post that PKR, with the consent and support of its Pakatan Rakyat partners, had bestowed upon Khalid in the first place.

Selangorians may like to think that as the rakyat, they have a say on who becomes the chief executive of the state. In reality, in this country, such matters are left to the party or coalition we elect into government. The party or coalition picks the officers of the government, not the people. So whether Selangorians like it or not, if PKR in its wisdom decides that Khalid must go, there is nothing much that Selangorians can do about it.

So how do you replace a mentri besar? Replacing a mentri besar mid-term is a delicate matter. If not handled carefully, it could result in a disaster. Witness the near collapse of the Terengganu Barisan Nasional government just a few months ago when the mentri besar was replaced. All the interested parties must be satisfied; the coalition partners, the palace, the outgoing mentri besar and the party leadership itself. Face saving must be a priority at all times.

In Terengganu, the change itself was relatively smooth. An agreement was reached between the party and the outgoing mentri besar. It was only later that a mini-mutiny broke out that lasted for about a day. In Selangor, if PKR and Khalid can reach an agreement, Khalid will just need to tender his resignation to Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah and the whole process of selecting a new mentri besar will take place.

According to the Selangor state constitution, a mentri besar is appointed by the Sultan from among the members of the state legislative assembly. The mentri besar must be a person, in the judgment of the Sultan, likely to command the confidence of the majority of the state assembly. Usually, this is a case of the winning party or coalition forwarding a name to the Ruler and it is taken that this name is supported by the majority of assemblymen. In unusual circumstances, the Sultan may need to ascertain the support to a particular mentri besar candidate. But if it can be shown by some undisputed means, such as a written declaration from the majority of assemblymen, that they support a particular candidate, and that candidate is qualified under the Selangor constitution, the Sultan would have to appoint the said person. In a constitutional monarchy, the Ruler has no discretion to reject a qualified candidate if it is clear that the majority of assemblymen support him.

But what if Khalid does not want to play ball? There are indications that Khalid will not go quietly into the night. What if he does not want to resign?

PKR will then have to move a motion in the state assembly for a vote of no-confidence against Khalid. There is no guarantee this will succeed; although Pakatan has two-thirds majority in the assembly, it is unclear whether all Pakatan assemblymen will vote against Khalid. But assuming that enough assemblymen do vote against Khalid and the vote of no-confidence is carried, does that mean Khalid is on his way out?

Unfortunately for PKR, not necessarily so. According to the Selangor constitution, a mentri besar who has lost a vote of no-confidence has two options. One, he tenders his resignation and that of his executive council to the Sultan. Two, he requests for the dissolution of the assembly, paving the way for state elections.

If Khalid wants to make things difficult for PKR and Pakatan in general, he could go for option number two. Once a request for dissolution is made, it is up to the Sultan whether to grant or deny the request. In 2009, the late Sultan Azlan Shah did not grant the then Perak mentri besar, Datuk Seri Nizar Jamaluddin’s request to dissolve the state assembly. As Nizar did not tender his resignation, it was deemed that the post was vacated and a new mentri besar was appointed. Similarly in Selangor, if a request to dissolve the state assembly is not granted, then effectively, Khalid’s position is no longer tenable.

But what if the Sultan grants the request and the assembly is dissolved? Is Pakatan confident of retaining the state again? Going by the latest survey results conducted by UMCDEL, one would think that the Pakatan leadership would want to avoid state elections if they can help it. Anything can happen if snap polls were to be held.

The steps to replace a mentri besar has been laid out, the question now is how far PKR is willing to take them. It all boils down to whether the party is willing to risk state-wide elections to remove Khalid.

They can also be sure that Selangorians are watching them every step of the way.

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