Lawyers split over PN’s ‘backdoor government’ label

Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin announcing his Cabinet line-up in Putrajaya last week.

PETALING JAYA: Lawyers are split over use of the term “backdoor government” to describe the administration of Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin, announced last week following a period of political turmoil after the collapse of the Pakatan Harapan (PH) government.

Jahaberdeen M Yunoos said it was unfair to label the Perikatan Nasional (PN) government as such, calling the opinion “either honest ignorance” or “intellectual dishonesty clouded by partisan prejudice”.

During the 14th general election, he said, voters had elected 222 MPs to the Dewan Rakyat while PH chairman Dr Mahathir Mohamad was appointed as prime minister by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong.

“The king makes a judgment call, and he appoints an MP who is likely to command the confidence of the majority of MPs, as required under Article 43 (2)(a) of the Federal Constitution,” he said.

He added that the king had repeated this process after Mahathir resigned as prime minister on Feb 24 without advising the ruler to dissolve the Dewan Rakyat for a snap election.

“The king met with MPs to ascertain for himself who from among the 222 MPs commands the confidence of the majority,” he said.

“It should be clear that the current government was formed in accordance with the constitution and the rule of law.”

He also said Muhyiddin’s government would collapse if a vote of no confidence succeeds when the Dewan Rakyat convenes on May 18.

He said civil society should continue to educate the people on the importance of electing MPs with integrity and credibility.

“Educate the public on how the constitution works in the formation of the administration instead of screaming ‘backdoor government’,” he added.

Retired judge Gopal Sri Ram, meanwhile, said the concept of a constitution based on the Westminster model such as Malaysia’s was predicated on parliamentary democracy.

“Even a person of the meanest intelligence would tell you that this is not the government the people elected,” he said to FMT.

“Hence, it is not constitutional because it goes against the basic structure of the constitution, of which parliamentary democracy is a critical part.

“It may be a constitutional government in form, but not in substance.”

Bastian Pius Vendargon said Muhyiddin, who ran on a PH ticket in GE14 and had pledged to uphold its manifesto, could not morally claim to form a government with the support of opposition MPs.

He said Muhyiddin should have gone to Parliament immediately to prove his majority confidence before making his next move.

“That is why many people call it a backdoor government. It may be defined as one with no moral standing in a democracy.”

GK Ganesan said the PH government had been elected through the direct choice of the majority of 14.8 million voters while PN was “a mechanical construct” with just over 112 MPs.

“We now have a government without a compass, as the people did not authorise it to lead.”