Mahathir cannot convene Parliament sitting to elect PM, says lawyer

Constitutional lawyer Malik Imtiaz Sarwar says an interim PM can only convene a Parliament sitting if he has the backing of at least half of the MPs.

PETALING JAYA: Constitutional lawyer Malik Imtiaz Sarwar has questioned whether Parliament can be recalled for a sitting on Monday to elect a prime minister.

“In my view, an interim prime minister can only do so where he has the backing of at least half of the MPs on the need to recall Parliament.

“The question therefore is whether it is open to an interim prime minister without an interim Cabinet to do so. It would appear that this is not the case,” he told FMT in a text message.

Malik said a Cabinet was essential for there to be a government or a caretaker government, as the case may be, and this was mandatory.

Constitutional lawyer Malik Imtiaz Sarwar.

“A prime minister without a Cabinet, caretaker or otherwise, is arguably not a government,” he said.

An interim prime minister, or a caretaker prime minister, he said, “cannot in my view act as the government”.

Malik said that when parliament was in recess, the Standing Orders provided for the prime minister to ask the speaker to recall Parliament “where the public interest requires”.

” This presumes that the prime minister is the leader of the Dewan,” he said.

Interim Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad had announced yesterday the next head of government would be elected in the Parliament on March 2.

Mahathir said the Yang di-Pertuan Agong had found that no one had a clear majority to form the government.

“And because there is no distinct majority, he (the King) says the right forum is the Dewan Rakyat. However, he said if the Dewan Rakyat failed to find a person with a majority, snap elections would be called,” Mahathir said.

The Conference of Rulers will convene a special meeting at Istana Negara today.

It is learnt that the meeting is being called to discuss the political crisis after Pakatan Harapan government reportedly lost its majority in Parliament following the pullout of PPBM from the coalition.

Two senior lawyers – Dominic Puthucheay and Bastian Pius Vendargon – have also taken the position that it was the king who appointed the prime minister and it would be unconstitutional for any election to be conducted in the legislature.

Meanwhile, lawyer R Kengadharan said there was no provision in the Constitution for the appointment of an interim prime minister since the Dewan Rakyat was still intact.

He said only a caretaker government led by the incumbent prime minister would come into place once the Dewan Rakyat was dissolved to hold an election.

“And the prime minister and his Cabinet manage the affairs of the country until the Election Commission announces which party or coalition of parties has the mandate from voters to form the next government,” he added.