A Hung Parliament. Where we are and what next?

Rakyat’s Mandate

On 19th November 2022, Malaysia had spoken. However, it was with a divided voice. The horse-trading between the political parties is still ongoing even as you read this. There are many messages circulating on social media and a lot of misinformation is out there. It 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 had a clear majority of at least 112 parliament 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 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 a no better position than Perikatan Nasional which has 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 Perikatan Nasional has officially secured the agreement of GRS and GPS. That takes Perikatan Nasional’s tally to at least 101 and as of this afternoon, news reports suggest that they have submitted more than 112 Statutory declarations in support of Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin as prime minister.

This is a product of coalition politics and a divided electorate. It means Perikatan Nasional and its coalition partners are able to form the majority.

Who should be given the “first-past-the-post” opportunity to form the Government?

A few articles have referred to conventions allowing for the formation of a minority government or a giving the party with the single largest number of seats the “first opportunity”.

By that measure, Perikatan Nasional has the single largest number of seats with its 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 MP’s. That exercise may well yield an answer given the submissions of the statutory declarations by Perikatan Nasional. We must remember party affiliation has no bearing in 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 against the grain of their political parties. The consequences then are a matter of internal discipline. What is important is that our new anti hopping law only punishes the voluntary defection from a political party by resignation 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 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 YDPA in his wisdom sought direct proof to satisfy himself as to who might be best able to command the confidence of the House.

From this afternoon’s news conferences, it appears that the Chairman of Barisan Nasional is desperately trying to undermine the decisions of the individual Barisan Nasional MP’s to throw their support behind Perikatan Nasional, going so far as to making the outrageous suggestion that unless any prior statutory declarations expressing support were invalid. This is all the more surprising because on Sunday, the Barisan Nasional and UMNO leadership had en masse called for his resignation. The refusal of Dato’ Sri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi to take responsibility for his party’s disastrous showing is unsurprising, after all he has not been able to get the Perikatan Nasional Chairman to intercede in the court cases against him.

Doubtless, there will be those who will try and 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 YDPA and should not be countenanced. It is the will of the individual members of the House that counts.

As it stands Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim must provide more than a 112 statutory declarations to the Palace by 2.00 p.m. tomorrow. In light of the fact that Perikatan Nasional has already delivered more than a 112 statutory declarations, it is an impossible task. The truth is Pakatan Harapan and Barisan Nasional are relying on misdirection to suggest that they have the majority. On the one hand Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim is leaving it to Barisan Nasional to announce it support and relying on the statements of its Chairman, while on the other hand Barisan Nasional’s Chairman is claiming that only the Supreme Council can decide who to work with in Parliament and any expression of support from the individual members is invalid. What this means is that Pakatan Harapan does not have the numbers and they have to find a way to cast doubt and put pressure on Perikatan Nasional’s claim.

What was the takeaway from GE 15 ?

Unfortunately, we will never know for sure why the voters voted in the way they did. As it happens, Pakatan Harapan lost seats while Perikatan Nasional gained seats. What is clear is that the vast majority of the voting electorate rejected Barisan Nasional. That is to say both the voters of Pakatan Harapan and Perikatan Nasional specifically choose to vote against Barisan Nasional. This was clearly wholesale rejection of the leadership of Barisan Nasional.

It is therefore shocking that Barisan Nasional is now in a position to force itself into a government through an alliance with Pakatan Harapan. 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 Barisan Nasional.

As it stands, the MP’s from Barisan Nasional must search their conscience. They must make a decision in accordance with the will of their members and the people, not their leadership. Barisan Nasional 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 political force will come to an end in GE 16.

Their individual MP’s are rightly rejecting Dato Sri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi and deferring to the will of their members and the votes for a clean government by supporting Perikatan Nasional.