By Khairul Syakirin Zulkifli, Research Analyst, Institut Masa Depan Malaysia
Malaysia spoke in GE15. However, it was with a divided voice. Horse-trading between political parties is ongoing. There are many messages circulating on social media and a lot of misinformation out there. This is an opportune time to address some of these issues and set out where we are.
Was there a ‘winner’ in GE15?
There was no winner. A winner would have a clear majority of at least 112 seats. It does no one any good to speak of winners and losers by reference to the number of individual seats a political party secures.
Pakatan Harapan (PH) as a coalition may have the single largest number of seats, but it is far short of a majority without another coalition partner. It is in no better position than Perikatan Nasional (PN), which secured 73 seats.
The party that manages to get a working coalition with an excess of 112 seats will form the government.
As it stands, PN has officially secured the agreement of GRS and GPS. That takes its tally to at least 101. As of yesterday afternoon, news reports suggest that they have submitted more than 112 statutory declarations in support of Muhyiddin Yassin.
This is a product of coalition politics and a divided electorate. It means PN and its coalition partners are able to form the majority.
Who should be given the ‘first’ opportunity to form the government?
A few articles have referred to conventions allowing for the formation of a minority government or giving the party with the single largest number of seats the “first opportunity”.
By that measure, PN has the single largest number of seats with confirmed support from GRS and GPS.
That said, the palace has not yet determined who is most likely to command the majority of the house. The palace has, through the speaker, sought individual statutory declarations from the individual MPs. That exercise may well yield an answer given the submissions of statutory declarations by PN.
We must remember that party affiliation has no bearing on this exercise. It is the members of the House and not the leaders of their respective political parties that make that decision.
The members of the house may choose to go against the grain of their political parties. The consequences then are a matter of internal party discipline. What is important is that our new anti-hopping law only punishes voluntary defection from a political party by resigning or ceasing to be a member. Expulsion from a political party is specifically protected under Article 49A(2)(c) of the Federal Constitution. This was enacted as a safeguard specifically to prevent the abuse of power by party leaders.
This, then, is really a matter of numbers. He who presents more than 112 statutory declarations to the palace should be invited to form the government. He who does not do so should not. The issue of inviting the single largest party or coalition of parties to form the government should not arise until that exercise yields no results.
The Agong, in his wisdom, has sought direct proof to satisfy himself as to who might be best able to command the confidence of the House.
From yesterday afternoon’s news conferences, it appears that the chairman of Barisan Nasional (BN) is desperately trying to undermine the decisions of individual BN MPs to throw their support behind PN, going so far as to make the outrageous suggestion that any prior statutory declarations expressing support were invalid.
This is all the more surprising because, on Sunday, the BN and Umno leadership had, en masse, called for his resignation. The refusal of Ahmad Zahid Hamidi to take responsibility for his party’s disastrous showing is unsurprising. After all, he has not been able to get the PN chairman to intercede in the court cases against him.
Doubtless, there will be those who try to skirt the issue by trying to pass off statutory declarations from the leaders of parties as the actual will of the members of the House, or for that matter, to cast doubt on the declarations of individual House members. That, with respect, is not complying with the direction of the Agong and should not be countenanced. It is the will of the individual members of the House that counts.
As it stands, Anwar Ibrahim must provide more than 112 statutory declarations to the palace by 2pm today. In light of the fact that PN has already delivered more than 112 statutory declarations, this is an impossible task.
The truth is, PH and BN are relying on misdirection to suggest that they have the majority. On one hand, Anwar is leaving it to BN to announce its support and relying on the statements of its chairman, while on the other hand, BN’s chairman is claiming that only the Supreme Council can decide whom to work with in Parliament and that any expression of support from individual members is invalid. What this means is that PH does not have the numbers, and they have to find a way to cast doubt and put pressure on PN’s claim.
What was the takeaway from GE15?
Unfortunately, we will never know for sure why the voters voted the way they did. As it happens, PH lost seats while PN gained seats. What is clear is that the vast majority of the electorate rejected BN. That is to say, both the voters of PH and PN specifically choose to vote against BN. This was clearly a wholesale rejection of the BN leadership.
It is therefore shocking that BN is now in a position to force itself into a government through an alliance with PH. That is truly an affront to the members of Umno who have vocally said “No Anwar, no DAP”, and the Malaysian people who voted against BN.
As it stands, the MPs from BN must search their conscience. They must make a decision in accordance with the will of their members and the people, not their leadership. BN was punished for its failure to recognise the voice of the people in GE14. There is no doubt that if they fail to do so again, their time as a political force will come to an end in GE16.
The individual BN MPs are rightly rejecting Zahid and deferring to the will of their members and the votes for a clean government by supporting PN.