Can caretaker PM tout unapproved Budget 2023 or announce goodies ahead of GE15? Lawyers explain
“The Budget, since it was never debated and passed in Parliament, is an election campaign gimmick. There is no guarantee that the exact same Budget will be reintroduced once the new Parliament is convened following the general election. We are not even certain Ismail Sabri will be the prime minister in the next government.”
(MMO) – With Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob and his ministers temporarily taking care of the government’s day-to-day operations until Malaysia gets a new government in the 15th general election (GE15), can they announce goodies to voters and brandish the yet-to-be approved Budget 2023 in their caretaker role?
Would the caretaker prime minister and his caretaker ministers run the risk of breaking any election laws, if they highlight Budget 2023 points, or make announcements before polling day on November 19?
Or will it just be a breach of convention, or the way things are usually done by caretaker governments?
Here’s what constitutional lawyers contacted by Malay Mail think:
Caretaker PM can’t make policy or budget commitments
“Strictly, there is no longer any Budget in existence. The party that wins will have to table a new Budget, and that will go through the debate and approval process. So it is wrong for the PM to claim that the Budget will be implemented.
“A caretaker PM cannot make any firm policy and other commitments,” he said.
Gurdial was giving his response after being shown news reports where Ismail Sabri had on October 17 said that funds were available for Budget 2023 that was just waiting to be passed, with the latter also reportedly saying on October 16 at a Bera Umno event: “If you want the Budget to be implemented, vote for us and then (the Budget) can be re-tabled and approved.”
Gurdial also said such commitments cannot be made by those in caretaker roles, as it is yet to be known what the new government would look like.
“We do not know the nature and configuration of the new government. Hence, it is meaningless to make a firm commitment of policy, etc. Same applies to the commitment to table the same Budget,” he said.
“He is in no position to make a firm commitment. His is only an aspirational statement, and a pledge, no more and no less. It is a political proclamation which has no binding effect and should be treated as such,” he added when referring to Ismail Sabri’s remarks.
Gurdial agreed that Malaysia needs a law for caretaker governments, saying: “Yes, there is a need to have a law to prescribe the parameters of what a caretaker government can do.”
No guarantee of same Budget 2023 after GE15
Andrew Khoo, the co-chair of the Bar Council’s Constitutional Law Committee, highlighted the difference between actual government policy and an electoral promise.
Commenting on Ismail Sabri’s remarks regarding the yet-to-be passed Budget 2023, Khoo said: “The Budget, since it was never debated and passed in Parliament, is an election campaign gimmick. There is no guarantee that the exact same Budget will be reintroduced once the new Parliament is convened following the general election. We are not even certain Ismail Sabri will be the prime minister in the next government.”