Stability and Accountability for Malaysia (Projek Sama) urges the government to enact a fixed-term parliament act in the upcoming parliamentary session in March.
It welcomes the proposal made by Deputy PM Zahid Hamidi on 13 January to enact a law to prevent a mid-term change of government.
A fixed-term parliament act is both a manifesto promise of Pakatan Harapan in the 2022 general election and one of the reforms called for by 33 NGOs and 52 individuals in the 2024 new year message, initiated by Projek Sama.
A fixed-term parliament act will constrain the prime minister’s power in seeking royal consent for an early dissolution of Parliament but leave completely untouched the King’s power under Articles 40(2)(b) and 43(4) to withhold his consent.
The King can still reject any request for early dissolution while the PM has to share the power to make such a request with fellow parliamentarians. This makes early elections harder.
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The “Madani” (civil and compassionate) government should start public consultation now for a fixed-term parliament bill to be tabled and passed in the upcoming parliamentary sitting in March.
With a fixed-term parliament act, Parliament must serve its full term of five years, unless either of these circumstances occur:
- The prime minister has lost the confidence of Parliament
- Two-thirds or more members of parliament pass a resolution to call for an early dissolution
With that, the prime minister cannot, at his whims and fancies, seek to dissolve Parliament before its full term, unless he loses power. The decision to seek royal consent must lie within the house to minimise political adventurism, to assure an inclusive and stable parliamentary democracy.
A key feature of a fixed-term parliament act is that it can stop any move that hopes to overthrow a sitting government by collecting statutory declarations from parliamentarians. A fixed-term parliament act has to define what constitutes a loss of confidence.
A fixed-term parliament act can limit “loss of confidence” to any of the following three circumstances:
- The passing of a no-confidence motion
- The defeat of a confidence motion
- The defeat of a budget (supply bill) in the second or third reading.
The abuse of statutory declarations by using them as tools of destablisation is an exploitation of the Federal Constitution’s silence in Article 43 on the method of ascertaining Parliament’s confidence in the government or the loss thereof.
Projek Sama feels that the counting of statutory declarations by parliamentarians is an underhanded and undemocratic way of forming and dismissing governments.
Any formation or dismissal of government should happen through confidence and supply votes on the floor of the House of Representatives, where MPs can cast their votes openly. This is where a fixed-term parliament act can close this gap without contradicting or without the need to amend the Federal Constitution.
In relation to government formation, Projek Sama and the 2024 New Year message also call for a confirmatory vote of confidence soon after the appointment of every new prime minister. Both reforms should also be introduced in all states.
With a fixed-term parliament act, the government will not be distracted by operations like the “Dubai move”. Not just the government, civil society, businesses and everyone in Malaysia can plan their work and events for the next four years, if the 15th Parliament dissolves automatically on 18 December 2027 and the next general election can be expected to take place around February 2028.
Fixed electoral calendars are not only a feature in presidential and semi-presidential democracies like Indonesia and Taiwan, but are also increasingly popular in parliamentary democracies such as Norway, Sweden and the states of Australia.
It is time for Malaysia to do the same to affirm stability and accountability.
Project – Stability and Accountability for Malaysia (Projek Sama) is an initiative to advocate for institutional reforms to bring about political stability and accountability at a time when our nation steers through the uncharted waters of a hung parliament and coalition of governments. In Malaysia, we share the common (sama) destiny. Ngeow Chow Ying serves as its convenor