King not bound to follow PM’s advice on dissolution, says lawyer

Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim announced today that he has the majority support in the Dewan Rakyat to form a new government.

PETALING JAYA: Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin can only advise the Yang di-Pertuan Agong to dissolve the Dewan Rakyat and pave the way for a snap general election if there is a “valid reason”, a constitutional lawyer said.

Bastian Pius Vendargon said however, the King was not bound to follow the advice of the incumbent prime minister.

“The prime minister then has to resign for the King to appoint another MP to form a new government,” he said.

Article 43 (2)(a) of the Federal Constitution states that the King appoints as prime minister a member of the Dewan Rakyat who, in his judgment, is likely to command the confidence of the majority.

Bastian Pius Vendargon

There are currently 222 MPs in the house.

Vendargon said the appointment is at the King’s discretion and cannot be challenged in a court of law.

He said this in response to opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim’s announcement today that he has the numbers to form a new government.

Anwar, who is Port Dickson MP, said the King had consented to grant him an audience, although this had to be postponed after the monarch was admitted to the National Heart Institute (IJN) on Monday.

At a press conference today, Anwar said those supporting him also comprised Malay-Muslim MPs.

“The support I have is conclusive. I’m not talking about four, five or six, I’m talking about much more than that,” he said, adding he had a “strong majority”, and close to two-thirds support.

Vendargon said there was a precedent where the Federal Court in the Perak case held that the head of government (prime minister, menteri besar or chief minister) must resign once he had lost the confidence of the majority elected representatives.

“Some legal thinkers cast doubt about the applicability of this on the Federal Constitution and the federal government,” he said of the Perak constitutional crisis in 2009 in which the then Pakatan Rakyat government fell after three of its elected reps declared themselves as Barisan Nasional-friendly independents, giving BN a simple majority in the state assembly.

Meanwhile, retired judge Gopal Sri Ram said any MP who commanded the confidence of the majority was entitled to make a representation to the King.

Gopal Sri Ram.

“There is no need to dissolve the Dewan Rakyat because the King could have a government to run the affairs of the country,” he said.

He said the government would be led by the person who enjoyed the confidence of the majority of MPs, and a Cabinet would be formed to exercise the executive authority.

“The ball is at the feet of the person claiming to command the confidence of the majority and this can be done by way of statutory declarations or letters of support for the prime minister candidate,” Sri Ram said.

He added that a test of confidence in the present government could be done by convening a session of the Dewan Rakyat.