The Guardian’s mischievous editorial

The UK-based newspaper The Guardian in its March 3 editorial has brazenly and mischievously depicted the appointment of Muhyiddin Yassin as the eighth prime minister of Malaysia by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong as a royal coup.

The editorial, “The Guardian view on a royal coup: A king overturns a historic election”, breathtakingly and speciously claimed that the Malaysian monarchy took advantage of the recent political turmoil to engineer its own coup that went against the people’s mandate at the last general election.

Either the editors of the newspaper are ignorant of the workings of Malaysia’s constitutional monarchy along with their ignorance of the Malaysian Federal Constitution, or they have some hidden agenda against the King and Muhyiddin.

Firstly, the crisis was never constitutional. It was purely political.

Sultan Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah, under the Malaysian system of governance, is above politics and had to step in to resolve a political crisis that was unprecedented in Malaysia’s history.

When former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad precipitated a political crisis by submitting his resignation to the palace on Feb 24, Sultan Abdullah accepted his resignation and appointed him as the interim prime minister. There is nothing unconstitutional in this.

Of course, when Mahathir resigned, the whole Cabinet under him also ceased to exist.

So, for a while, Malaysia was without a government although she had an interim prime minister.

The King in his wisdom realised that it is not good for Malaysia not to have a government for a prolonged period of time and thus, he set about to resolve this by interviewing all 222 MPs on who they think should lead the government.

This is provided for under Article 43(2)(a) of the Federal Constitution which explicitly provides for the King to appoint as prime minister a member of the Dewan Rakyat, someone who he thinks commands the confidence of the majority in the House.

This simply means an MP who gained the support of at least 112 MPs.

Beginning Feb 25, the King undertook the painstaking and meticulous task of ascertaining and verifying the support of every single MP.

He interviewed individual MPs regarding support for the names put forward as the candidate for Malaysia’s eighth prime minister.

On Feb 28, on the basis of these interviews, the Palace issued a statement that the King has not come to a decision on who in his opinion gained the confidence of the majority of the parliamentarians to form a new government.

“The Palace will liaise with the leaders of the political parties who have representatives in the Dewan Rakyat to give them an opportunity to nominate a member of the Dewan Rakyat as the next Prime Minister,” the statement added.

On the next day, Feb 29, the Palace issued another statement which said that it received a list of nominees of future prime ministers from heads of political parties and independent representatives of the Dewan Rakyat.

“After receiving representation from all the leaders of the political parties representing their party and the independent MPs, in the opinion of His Majesty, the Member of Parliament who has the confidence of the majority of the Dewan Rakyat is Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, Member of Parliament for Pagoh (P143),” added the statement.

Thus, it is simply perplexing and baffling that The Guardian editorial chose a very mischievous and inaccurate heading to publish its story.

And the irony is that the rest of the editorial including the angle proper confirms the laughable nature of the title!

Secondly, nowhere in the editorial does it make any effort to justify let alone explain as to why it thinks that the Agong’s action in by-passing Mahathir and instead appointing Muhyiddin as the 8th PM should be taken seriously, if at all.

The editorial simply assumes and injects the claim after what is a mere repetition or rehash of the facts surrounding the political intrigue and manoeuvrings.

In conclusion, not only is the title entirely misguided and is not in sync with the angle of the rest of the editorial, there is no analysis done as to how and why the political imbroglio and brouhaha could do nothing better than to invite and incur the constitutional intervention (not interference, mind you) of the King.

Jamari Mohtar and Jason Loh are part of the research team at EMIR Research, an independent think-tank focused on strategic policy recommendations.

The views expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.