Sunday, June 24, 2018

Gerakan makes the move

And so Gerakan has done it. It's left BN, leaving the coalition with only three surviving members: UMNO, MCA and MIC.

The move will make no difference at the Parliamentary level because Gerakan did not win a single federal seat in GE14. But psychologically it will make a pretty big impact. Sabah BN component parties were the first to jump ship. Then Sarawak BN component parties deserted BN en masse. Gerakan is the first major peninsula party to leave BN.

In response, Zahid Hamidi has mooted a rebranding of BN in the form of a new coalition. One can't help but wonder how it would be any different from the old BN other than having a new name. Would they invite PAS to join in?

If it did, out goes MCA and MIC. So an UMNO/PAS coalition. Wow, that would sure win back the non-Malay/non-Muslim votes to the new BN.

If it doesn't and just includes MCA and MIC how is it any different from what it is the situation now? Perhaps a new understanding that all three are actually equal partners? That sure will go down well with the UMNO grassroots and leaders!

The dilemma UMNO and MCA/MIC face is almost an insurmountable one. They need each other, yet they are the cause of each other's downfall.

UMNO needs MCA/MIC to give a semblance of multiracialism to the coalition. Malaysia is a country where roughly 60% of the population is Malay/Muslim. No coalition that is based on one race only can possibly win a general election. As for MCA and MIC, which have generally been abandoned by their own respective communities, they need Malay support in order to have any hope of winning any seats.

So, they need each other. At the same time they weigh each other down. UMNO leaders and supporters alike generally view the non-Malay component parties as burdens that UMNO have to carry. They were willing to bear that burden while the going was good but now when things are bad, they don't want to rid themselves of excess baggage. MCA and MIC's target voters generally view them as UMNO lapdogs. This is a perception neither party has been able to shake over several election cycles already.

Will a rebranded BN change anything? Not a thing.

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Why submit 3 names?

Why did PKR/Wan Azizah submit three names for the sultan to choose from, asks lawyer R Kengadharan?

In accordance to the constitution, the MB designate should be the one who commands the confidence of the majority of the state reps of the winning party/coalition. By right that should be one person not three.

As mentioned before, Pakatan submitted one name for PM and one name for AG. So why not do the same for Selangor MB?

There are probably three reasons for this.

i) There are factions within PKR which want different candidates. Wan Azizah wanted someone and Azmin Ali wanted someone else. The third one candidate was probably just a name they threw in there so there could be three names submitted.

ii) The sultan wanted more than one name. That was the case last time around and that's the case now.

iii) PKR wasn't willing to engage in a Battle Royale with the palace over this matter. The other parties, DAP, Amanah and Bersatu, which are all junior partners in the Selangor government, did not raise a fuss about this and accepted PKR's approach.

Also as mentioned before, Dr M would have taken a different approach and followed the constitution. He would have submitted just one name. (If you go by what legal experts are saying, what's happened in Perlis and Selangor is not in line with the constitution).

Thursday, June 21, 2018

BN shadow cabinet a good idea but...

KJ says he will assemble a shadow cabinet if he becomes UMNO president. A shadow cabinet is a good idea. It's something Pakatan never did.

The reason wasn't that Pakatan didn't have the right people to fill the positions. The reason is that any shadow cabinet they unveiled would have been criticized to death by BN and used as scaremongering propaganda by BN.

Imagine if Lim Guan Eng had been named as finance minister in the Pakatan shadow cabinet. You can see UMNO going to town with that one. But imagine if they had named only Malays for key posts. MCA, MIC and Gerakan could then say: "You claim to be a meritocracy but you fill all the top positions with Malays".

So whatever they do, they will be criticized. If they put a non-Malay in a top post, they will be vilified by UMNO. If they fail to put a non-Malay in a top post, they will be vilified by MCA/MIC/Gerakan. So they decided not to name a shadow cabinet.

KJ won't have that luxury should he be elected UMNO president because he has committed to doing so. But he will face the same issues Pakatan faced when it was in the opposition.

Let's take the case of finance minister again. If he names a Malay, people will say: "More of the same... UMNO cannot see beyond race." If he names a non-Malay, people will say: "You see, he is copying Pakatan". Either way he gets whacked.

Welcome to the opposition, KJ!

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Does the royalty have discretion in choosing PM/MB?

This question of whether the ruler of a state has discretion over whom he wants as MB is in the news because of what's happened in Perlis and Selangor.

In Perlis, the ruler made his choice despite the fact that none of BN's state reps supported that person. In Selangor, Pakatan's original preferred candidate was not chosen. Both cases are different although the principle involved is the same. It all hinges on whether the ruler has discretion over this matter.

It's similar to the case of whether the king has discretion over who the PM should be. When Pakatan won the general election, Pakatan put forth only one name: Dr M's, as their PM candidate. According to press reports, the king actually preferred Wan Azizah (his dislike of Dr M is well known) but she declined and Pakatan as a whole stuck to its guns. After some delay, Dr M was sworn in as PM.

Something similar happened with the AG candidate. All Pakatan component parties wanted Tommy Thomas and they submitted only his name. Apparently the king wanted more options but again Pakatan stuck to its guns and insisted on Thomas as their only choice. Again after some delay, Thomas was sworn in.

In Perlis, UMNO actually boycotted the swearing in of the rulers choice of MB to signal their protest. Afterwards, the state reps apologized to the ruler and subsequently seemed to accept his choice although some quarters in UMNO insists that the matter is going to be settled in the courts. It's not clear whether the legal case is being pursued. Most likely UMNO will throw in the towel on this one so as to avoid a clash with the ruler. This, despite the fact that UMNO actually has a 2/3 majority in that state.

In Selangor, there seems to be two rival factions within PKR. Wan Azizah seemed to be with the other component parties in wanting Idris Ahmad as MB while former MB Azmin Ali preferred Amirudin. In the end, Wan Azizah agreed to submit three names for the sultan to consider. The other parties didn't object and Amirudin was chosen. There's little that Idris can do despite earlier having support letters from all four component parties because three names were submitted for consideration.

If Pakatan as a whole had insisted on submitting just one name and the sultan refused to accept that candidate, it would have led to a constitutional crisis. If push came to shove, would the sultan have eventually given in or would Pakatan. We won't know because Pakatan obviously did give in.

However this whole issue of the role of a constitutional monarchy is far from resolved. At the federal level, the king averted a constitutional crisis by accepting Dr M and Thomas as PM and AG, respectively. In Perlis and Selangor it looks like a crisis was averted by the winning parties backing down on their demands.

The constitutionality of it all has not actually been tested because in all these cases, one party backed down. It should be noted however that all legal experts who have weighed in on this matter believe that in a constitutional monarchy, the ruler has to appoint the preferred candidate of the winning party.

No Battle Royale in the cards for Selangor

The issue of constitutional monarchy has been in the news a lot lately because of various things that have happened in the aftermath of GE14.

The king had delayed Dr M's swearing in as PM and he also delayed the swearing in of Dr M/Pakatan's choice of Attorney General. Neither of these things should have happened, Dr M has said. And he's right. In a constitutional monarchy, the ruler has to act on the advice of the PM.

The Perlis constitutional issue which seems to have died down a bit (but not totally resolved), has also put the spotlight on the role of constitutional ruler. Over there, the ruler chose as MB someone whom the Perlis BN do not want. Actually, the ruler should go with whoever the ruling party wants.

Although many anti-BN people were glad to see the Perlis ruler have his way over the BN state reps there, this has set a bad precedence. And it's coming to haunt Pakatan in Selangor. In the previous election, Pakatan submitted only one name for its choice of MB but the Sultan rejected that and asked that more than one name to be submitted. He ended up choosing Azmin Ali although Pakatan's first choice was Wan Azizah.

At the time, PKR (and the other parties in Pakatan) felt it did not have the political capital to pursue this matter to the end (which would have meant taking it to the courts). Pakatan had many fires to put out and waging a legal battle with the sultan wasn't exactly something it wanted to contend with. So it gave in. This too had set a bad precedent.

It's been widely reported that all factions wanted Idris Ahmad to be the new MB. But the sultan asked for more than one name and Pakatan has complied. He didn't choose Idris.

PKR probably made an assessment and concluded that it was still not time to engage in any Battle Royale with the royalty. The rest just went along because it's PKR's prerogative when it comes to the Selangor MB.

One thing's for sure though: Dr M would not have stood for this if the MB issue were up to Bersatu to decide. He would have just submitted one name, just as he had done with the AG situation.

And if asked by reporters why he did that, Dr M would have replied that he wanted to "save" the royalty by ensuring that they do the right thing instead of taking actions that would go against their role as constitutional monarchs.

He knows that the sultan actually does not actually have discretion in choosing an MB. If he were to give the sultan more than one name, he would be making it possible for the sultan to overstep his role as a constitutional ruler. By giving only one name, he would be making sure the sultan fulfills his constitutional role to affirm the winning coalition's choice.