THE selection of the prime ministerial candidate is an important process and needs to be transparent, fair and above board to clearly show which MP voted for which candidate.
This is because the king will rely almost entirely on the breakdown of support from aggregating this information to pick who will be prime minister.
There are several problems with the method proposed in the letter by the Dewan Rakyat Speaker Datuk Azhar Azizan Harun to MPs asking them to choose the one MP they support for the post of prime minister.
One, it gives hardly any time for the MPs to form alignments that will need to be discussed within the party and between parties to choose a candidate. This is especially important now as no coalition has a majority.
Support for caretaker prime minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin is said to be 100 MPs, while Harapan plus allies are said to have 105. It’s not clear whether Muhyiddin will even offer himself as a candidate again. He should not because as prime minister, he had already lost his majority. Thus, time is needed for his party to sort things out.
Similarly, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim has solid Pakatan Harapan support, but he still needs other parties to give him a majority. More time is needed to form the alliances that this will make possible.
After waiting so long to get Muhyiddin’s resignation, the decision for a new prime ministerial candidate is rather hasty, given the complexities right now. It is appropriate that more time is given, perhaps a week.
The other thing is the manner in which the decisions are to be conveyed – fax, email and WhatsApp – hand delivery is not allowed. With 220 MPs having access to these means of contact, spamming could take place and false support letters could fly around.
That would make it very difficult to ascertain the veracity of the letters and lead to considerable confusion. Collating the data and ensuring its authenticity is very difficult. It would have been better to allow personal delivery or by courier.
The best is to require all MPs to be personally present at a venue – say, Parliament – and record their votes publicly and transparently. This would avoid all needless doubt over whether the figures are accurate or not and for the public to know who voted for whom as they vote. It should be a special Parliament session that must be streamed live.
The necessary standard operating procedures can easily be put in place for this to happen.
The speaker’s letter asks MPs to maintain confidentiality until the decision is made but by then, it will be too late. In this round, there should not be any doubt that only the right and most deserving person is chosen to be the person who becomes prime minister by forming a government or was given the mandate to get the majority within a period of time to be endorsed by a vote in Parliament.
In the aftermath of the Sheraton Move early last year, Muhyiddin was chosen to form the government, but that did not stop tongues wagging that he did not have majority support from MPs.
This was exacerbated by delays to a no-confidence vote, which was relegated to the bottom of the pile by the current speaker Azhar, who refused to have it debated and voted upon, citing standing orders as his reason for not putting it up, even though it was a very urgent and vital matter.
Subsequently, Muhyiddin avoided Parliament sessions by various means, including proposing an emergency, which was first declined by the king but endorsed by him on a second application in January.
Even after the emergency was lifted, Muhyiddin continued to delay a Parliament session despite the express wishes of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong and the rulers that Parliament be held earlier. Until the last, Muhyiddin delayed Parliament to avoid a no-confidence vote.
It is imperative for stability as well as for public confidence, good governance, transparency and accountability that a good standard and precedence is set for future possible situations, given that there is a real possibility of coalition governments in the future.
This is a trend that is spreading not just in Malaysia but throughout the world, exemplifying the need to bring together, sometimes, very disparate groups through compromise and negotiation, with the proviso that integrity, ethics and honesty still remain non-negotiable.
This is an important transition our nation is going through and in all likelihood, it’s going to happen again and again in the future. So, for the sake of the country, king and people, let’s please get this right from the start. – The Vibes, August 18, 2021
P. Gunasegaram says the right decision must not only be made, but seen to be made, just as with justice. He is chief executive of research and advocacy group Sekhar Institute and editorial consultant of The Vibes