PETALING JAYA: A prime minister can remain in office even if the Yang di-Pertuan Agong refuses his consent to dissolve the Dewan Rakyat, a constitutional lawyer said.
Bastian Pius Vendargon said the prime minister has to vacate his office only if the majority of members of the Dewan Rakyat have lost confidence in him.
“The prime minister seeks the King’s consent to dissolve Parliament (Dewan Rakyat) and his Majesty has a discretion to agree or disagree under Article 40 (2) (b) of the Federal Constitution,” he told FMT.
The lawyer was responding to a statement by Umno deputy president Mohamad Hasan that the prime minister should resign if the King disagreed with a request for dissolution.
Mohamad said this meant that the King no longer had trust in the prime minister and, by convention, the prime minister should resign.
At a press conference in Machap, he said Umno would continue to push for an early general election, whether or not Barisan Nasional scores a major victory in the March 12 Johor state elections.
He said Umno would urge Ismail Sabri Yaakob to dissolve Parliament but it was up to him to decide.
“If the King refuses, it has nothing to do with the confidence of the majority in the Dewan Rakyat and Ismail need not be concerned as long as he has majority support,” Vendargon said.
Support, or the lack of it, for the prime minister could be determined by a floor vote in the house and in the form of statutory declarations, as decided by a 2009 Federal Court ruling.
Vendargon said Article 43(4) only comes into play if the prime minister has lost the confidence of the majority of MPs.
In that case, he said the prime minister could request a dissolution, failing which he would have to resign for the King to appoint another MP to fill the position.
Lawyer Rafique Rashid Ali said Mohamad was talking politics without considering the true constitutional position.
He said past prime ministers have successfully sought dissolutions even before the expiry of the five-year term.
“Should such a dissolution be refused, it does not mean they have lost the confidence of the majority,” he said.
He said former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad, then from Barisan Nasional/ Umno, went to the polls to get a fresh mandate just after four years for a number of reasons, including the fact that the economy was doing well then.
“Under the present circumstances, it will be wise to complete the full five-year term due to the Covid-19 pandemic in order not to unnecessarily burden the people,” he added.