Fixed-term Parliament Act doesn’t include fixed term PM

15 Jan 2024 12:02pm

SHAH ALAM - The proposal to create a permanent term for the Parliament has advantages from the point of view of the smoothness of the election system, but it does not mean a permanent term for the Prime Minister.

Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM) Kuala Lumpur, Razak Faculty of Technology and Informatics Perdana Policy Centre lecturer Associate Professor Dr Muhammad Fathi Yusof said that the fixed term system for the Prime Minister was not impossible to implement, but its implementation would create flaws in the fundamentals of parliamentary democracy.

He said the fixed term of Parliament and the fixed term of the Prime Minister were two different things.

"The fixed term of the Prime Minister can generally be implemented by amending the provisions of Article 43(4) of the Federal Constitution, and some other related legal provisions.

"Article 43(4) of the Constitution stipulates that if the Prime Minister no longer has the confidence of the majority of members of the Dewan Rakyat, the Prime Minister must resign from the Council of Ministers, unless at his request, Parliament is dissolved by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong," he said in a statement on Facebook on Sunday.

He said this in response to a statement made by the Minister in the Prime Minister's Department (Legal and Institutional Reform), Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said regarding the government through the Legal Affairs Division (BHEUU) would continue a detailed study including an impact study and get the public's opinion. regarding the introduction of the Fixed Term Parliament Act.

Fathi said if the position of Prime Minister was to be made a permanent position, the provision should clearly state that a Prime Minister who was appointed would continue to hold his position until the end of the term of Parliament unless he resigns.

"However, the amendment to this provision is not sufficient to guarantee the position of a Prime Minister.

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"As a country that practices parliamentary democracy, basically, the position of a Prime Minister is still tied to the beliefs of the majority of Dewan Rakyat members.

"Even his appointment is also based on the assessment of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong regarding the trust held in the Dewan Rakyat.

"If a Prime Minister loses the support of the majority, then he is considered to be leading a minority government," he said

He explained that, in this situation, the Prime Minister was exposed to difficulties in administering smoothly and efficiently because all proposals presented by the government in the Dewan Rakyat would face the risk of rejection due to not having the support of the majority.

"For important motions such as the annual budget approval motion, rejection by the Dewan Rakyat will paralyse the national administration, which will eventually force a Prime Minister to resign," he said.

Fathi said that the fixed term of the Parliament and the State Legislative Assembly means that the lifespan of the Parliament and the State Assembly is set, for example, for five years, and there is no room to allow dissolution earlier than that.

"In order to implement it, Article 55 (2) and (3) of the Federal Constitution needs to be amended to remove the power to dissolve Parliament earlier than its term of five years.

“Similar amendments should also be made at the state level to make the state assembly end on the same date and period as the Parliament.

"The advantage of the fixed term of Parliament is that it can create certainty from the point of view of scheduling elections. This idea has been talked about for a long time because the practice of dissolving Parliament or state assembly earlier than the five-year period prompts political parties to start unofficial campaigns too early and stakeholders wait for the election date," he said.

He said that the change to the fixed term system of the Parliament should be accompanied by a system of simultaneous general elections between the Parliament and all state assemblies with a fixed schedule not only relax the prolonged political culture but could even save the cost of conducting general elections and relieve the parties affected by election date speculation.

"In order to adapt to the periodic development planning of the Malaysia Plan (RM) which usually follows terms (01-05) and terms (06-10), the date of the general election should preferably be made in the middle of the last year of the Malaysia Plan, which is a multiple of the year (05) and (10), for example the year 2025 and the year 2030.

"If the fixed date for the general election is determined in June, the new government will have enough time to draw up a five-year plan for its administration.

"However, the fixed term system of Parliament does not necessarily mean a fixed term for the Prime Minister. The fixed term of the Prime Minister is difficult to implement because the parliamentary democratic system is based on the trust of members of the Dewan Rakyat," he said.

He added that the proposed changes could not be made through an ordinary Parliament Act but have to be done by amending the Constitution which requires a vote of two-thirds of the members of the Dewan Rakyat.