Yet Another Constitutional Crisis On The Horizon?

The Tuesday before last, the leader of Malaysia’s largest coalition in the federal parliament, Anwar Ibrahim, stunningly announced that he had cemented a deal with current members of the present governing PN alliance that he claims has provided him with a commanding majority – sufficient to restore the elected PH administration, undermined in February by defectors.

He informed the public that he had been in communication with the Agong on this matter and that an audience had been granted for him to lay out his numbers to the King. As per usual, the Parliament is not sitting thereby precluding any immediate opportunities to pass a motion of no confidence.

Hot on the heels of that announcement, the leader of UMNO, the largest PN ally by far, confirmed that there have been substantial defections from his ranks to Anwar, making it absolutely clear that, at the very least, the present ‘PM8,’ Muhyiddin Yassin, who executed a backdoor coup by lying about his numbers in the first place, no longer has a majority

After all, before this negative development Muhyiddin only had a majority at the most of two – on a good day.

Yet, on the Monday before Anwar went public the Agong had announced he was entering hospital for treatment of a sudden minor heart complaint and that the audience would need to be postponed. His condition was refined by the end of the week into a minor bout of food poisoning and a sports injury was then thrown into the mix.

The Agong remained under medical care whilst a razor thin state election came and went in Sabah, thereby enabling ‘PM8’ to campaign on a platform of being the governing party with the ability to ‘fund development’. He went on to use the full force of his continuing executive power and influence to squeeze his minority party nominee into the contested position of chief minister.

Things might have worked out differently had Anwar received his audience.

Over twelve days later, Muhyiddin and his right hand man Azmin Ali are back in KL seeking to patch up their problem with UMNO, which appears to have become fed up with propping up a handful of defectors with no real party of their own and for little in return.

One can only imagine the blandishments on offer, given the duo’s shameful record in recent months of handing out jobs and inducements to MPs and state representatives all over Malaysia in order to scrape tiny majorities and turf out elected governments. It has been extremely destabilising and it has angered many.

The Agong, meanwhile has remained unavailable in hospital, which has bought crucial time for a prime minister appointed by him (despite not a single MP having nominated him for the job) to set about ‘wooing’ back defectors.

It is a situation that is starting to develop into a new phase in the on-going constitutional crisis that has bothered the country since February. Key to the problem has been the deliberate undermining of Malaysia’s parliamentary democracy.

A Battered Constitution

Faced with the reality that he had lied about his numbers and did not command a majority when appointed, ‘PM8’ had initially and unconstitutionally postponed parliament for several months as he sought to bribe enough new supporters to achieve a voting majority.

He made the Covid crisis his excuse, exacerbating the illegality of the situation by raising vast sums in a national crisis without the support and consent of Parliament.

After being finally convened to rush through some razor thin votes that included snatching control of the Speaker’s Chair (again in violation of the constitutional process) the chamber was shut again after less than a month and will not open again till November – it adds up to Parliament sitting just 6 weeks in total, supposedly as the ‘ultimate authority in the land’ during this entire year of tumult and upheaval.

Since Anwar cannot therefore immediately test his numbers in the house, it falls to the Agong to hear his case and then to summon Muhyiddin to allow him to prove he still has the numbers (which just as as in March everyone knows he doesn’t). Instead, owing to this unfortunate indisposition of a crucial player, the process is dragging on.

The political acrobat behind much of the ongoing push-back meanwhile is Azmin Ali, clearly a believer that the force of relentless, unscrupulous determination can defy gravity in politics. With just a bit more time, he will be arguing, those who have agreed to defect will be persuaded to stay – given the right ‘incentives’.

It would appear that the Agong’s lingering condition, though fortunately not serious, conveniently continues to allow Azmin that time as day after day he fails to exit his royal hospital suite.

One can only offer sincere condolences towards the Agong, however it means that after nearly a fortnight Anwar and his as yet undisclosed raft of new allies have yet to get their right to an audience to allegedly prove their numbers and thereby either take control of the country or force an election (which would give angry Malaysians the opportunity to have their say on Azmin Ali and ‘PM8’).

And, on Monday another constitutional benchmark will have been reached in that the law only allows the Agong 15 days to remain indisposed or incapable of carrying out his duties before handing over to the Timbalan, his royal deputy.

The rules are clear. Under Section 33 Clause 1 of the Federal Constitution, if the Agong is disabled through illness from performing his duties for more than 15 days the Timbalan (his deputy chosen from the Council of Rulers) will assume his role until he is recovered.

Providing an audience to potentially the rightful political leader of the country in order to discuss a possible transition of power, plainly rates high among the duties the Agong needs to be in a position to perform or otherwise step aside while indisposed.

The Agong must step aside on Monday or grant Anwar his audience .... according to the Constitution
The Agong must step aside on Monday or grant Anwar his audience …. according to the Constitution

So, come Monday the Agong must see Anwar or hand over.

Alternatively, will Malaysia be disgraced and debased by yet another violation of the Constitution in order to keep the Muhyiddin and Azmin show on the road?  One assumes not given the status of those involved.

Nevertheless, unless the Agong returns to sufficient health to leave hospital on Friday, the coming weekend is set to represent yet another stage in the ongoing crisis foisted on Malaysia by this backdoor coup and minority government, all at a time of peril and uncertainty for the country and its economy – and talk of another ‘Covid lockdown’ as the ultimate weapon to keep control in the hands of ‘PM8’ and Azmin Ali.

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