Is a request for a Vote of No Confidence an act distrustful of the King?
This afternoon the President of PAS, Hadi, alleged that any attempt to seek a Vote of No Confidence in Parliament would be to express distrust of the King. Is he right?
This afternoon, a local daily reported PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang as saying, that:
‘[Those] who push for a vote of no confidence against Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin do not trust the [King].’1https://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/nation/2020/03/06/pushing-for-no-confidence-vote-will-mean-not-trusting-agong-says-hadi/
Is he right?
No, he is not.
The birth of democracy was written in history by centuries of struggle, blood, toil and death. In ancient days, monarchs did as they pleased. Democracy developed since 507 B.C. It is the right of the people to choose their own leaders to rule over them. Gradually, this found influence in Europe and Great Britain. 2 As far back as 507 B.C. the Athenian leader Cleisthenes political reforms he called ‘demokratia’ a process of ‘rule by the people’ people. ‘Demos’ meant people; and ‘kratia’ meant ‘power’. See https://www.history.com/topics/ancient-greece/ancient-greece-democracy Processes that started many centuries ago built the concepts of the Rule of Law in Great Britain. [mfnn]It started with the Magna Carta (‘The Great Charter’) in 1215, some 805 years ago. King John signed it at a glen called Runnymede, in Surrey, England. The faint glimmering of the rule of law, and indeed democracy, is first seen in that historic document. More than four centuries later, in 1689, the Bill of Rights documents the formal strengthening of democracy in England. By that Bill the monarchy devolved its absolute powers over to the people. The Bill placed limits on the powers of the monarch. The monarchs William III and Mary II were the signatories to it. It set out the people’s right to have a Parliament, assured the nation of regular and free elections, and, importantly, guaranteed freedom of speech in Parliament.[Parliament UK. Retrieved April 30,2019]. A living principle of that freedom is found in the Malaysian Constitution, in Article 63
Malaysia follows the UK Westminster Model
Malaysia’s Constitution and its method of administering the country is based on the United Kingdom’s Westminster model. In the UK, the titular head of the UK Parliament is Her Majesty the Queen.3 https://www.royal.uk/queen-and-government She summons, prorogates, and dissolves parliament. Her role is one of formality only.4Ibid
The Queen does not, and cannot, under the [unwritten] constitution of the United Kingdom participate in, or decide for, the people.5Ibid
The citizenry ruled themselves by the laws of democracy.
Voters elect members of Parliament. The MPs in turn elect the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister then selects among his colleagues a Cabinet, which is endorsed by the Monarch.
Proceedings within Parliament are protected
The Parliament is a place of, and for, the people. Whatsoever occurs within it, is the right of the people.
In Parliament, the nation’s elected representatives speak out for the benefit of the people.
“The voice of the Rakyat must be heard in Parliament.
Whatever said in Parliament is protected
The only thing that cannot be discussed in Parliament is the abolition of the constitutional position of the King, or the position of a State Ruler.
This is protected by Article 63.6The relevant part of which reads:- ‘Article 63. Privileges of Parliament: 63(1) The validity of any proceedings in either House of Parliament …shall not be questioned in any court; (2) No person shall be liable to any proceedings in any court in respect of anything said, or any vote given by him when taking part in any proceedings of either House of Parliament …. (5) … no person shall be liable to any proceedings in any court in respect of anything said by him of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong or a Ruler when taking part in any proceedings of either House of Parliament … except where he advocates the abolition of the constitutional position of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong as the Supreme Head of the Federation or the constitutional position of the Ruler of a State, as the case may be.
There is nothing in the constitution limiting an MP’s duty to speak about or vote for – or against – a Vote of No Confidence.
Mahathir’s claim of a majority
Shortly before Muhyiddin had been appointed, Tun Mahathir claimed that his and Opposition’s attempt to seek an appointment with the King had been unsuccessful. 7See https://www.malaysiakini.com/news/512719
Next, Mahathir and his colleagues asked that Muhyiddin disclose to the public what names were there on the list he showed to the palace. His request has not been heeded.
Third, the list Muhyiddin had shown to the palace has never been made public to this day.8http://www.sarawakreport.org/2020/03/the-usurper-dodges-on-the-numbers-behind-his-umnopas-coalition/
Mahathir, on the other hand, has published the list of MPs who support his leadership.9see https://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/nation/2020/02/29/dr-m-releases-list-of-mps-backing-him/
The need for more information to confirm the ‘majority’ is now more relevant than ever
No one other than Muhyiddin and his colleagues know what list they had handed over to the King. That list has not been made public. Therefore, it stands to reason that Tun Mahathir, the Opposition and the nation, wish to determine whether Article 43 of the Federal Constitution has been complied with.
Just in case if, in all this excitement, anyone had missed what Article 43 says, here are the words:
‘Article 43. Cabinet
(1) The [King] shall appoint a [Cabinet of Ministers] to advise him in the exercise of his functions.
(2) The Cabinet shall be appointed as follows, that is to say:
(a) the [King] shall first appoint as Perdana Menteri (Prime Minister) to preside over the Cabinet a member of the House of Representatives who in his judgment is likely to command the confidence of the majority of the members of that House; and
(b) he shall on the advice of the Prime Minister appoint other Menteri (Ministers) from among the members of either House of Parliament;
Article 43(4) states the Opposite of what Hadi is saying
Again, Article 43(4) of the Constitution states that if the prime minister ‘ceases to command the majority of the members of Parliament’, then unless the King dissolves Parliament, the PM and his Cabinet have no choice but to resign. 10 Article 43(4) reads:‘ If the Prime Minister ceases to command the confidence of the majority of the members of the House of Representatives, then, unless at his request the Yang di-Pertuan Agong dissolves Parliament, the Prime Minister shall tender the resignation of the Cabinet.’
Since the word, ‘ceases to command’ shows that MPs can vote out the current PM, how is that in defiance of the King?
The Need for a Vote of No Confidence is legitimate
The one place to test whether Muhyiddin ‘commanded, – and still commands – the confidence of the majority of… the [Dewan Rakyat]’ is in Parliament.
What kind of majority is needed for a vote of no confidence?
A simple majority is enough. [Article 62(3)].11Article 62(3) states ‘… each House shall, if not unanimous, take its decision by a simple majority of members voting; and the person presiding shall unless he is a member of the House … cast his vote whenever necessary to avoid an equality of votes, but shall not vote in any other case.’
There are numerous examples of Votes of No Confidence in UK, where the Queen reigns
A vote of no confidence is a Parliamentary Mechanism, is a democratically accepted method practised all over the world.
In the United Kingdom
In the United Kingdom, the Queen reigns supreme. There are numerous historical examples of votes of no confidence that were moved against Great Britain’s prime ministers: perhaps as many as 25. These are seen from the years 1742 to 1979.
1742 saw the first time a prime minister of Great Britain. Those who voted Aye were 236, and 235 against. Walpole lost by a single vote. He resigned.
In 1782 there was a successful motion against the Prime Minister Lord North. The Government resigned.
In 1784 it was William Pitt the Younger who was in the line of fire. He refused to resign, but he persuaded the King to dissolve parliament.
In 1830, a successful motion against the Duke of Wellington forced him to resign.
In 1835, Sit Robert Peel found his majority under scrutiny, and he and his government resigned en bloc. There were 5 more resignations on votes of no confidence after that.
On 16 December 1852, the prime minister, The Earl of Derby found himself in trouble when his budget was unsuccessful. Parliament called a vote of no confidence. He had the support of 286 MPs. More than 300 MPs opposed him. His entire government resigned.
Six more motions of No Confidence were successful from 1855 (The Earl of Aberdeen) to 1873.
These fell in the years 1857(The Viscount of Palmerston); 1858 (The Viscount of Palmerston); 1859 (The Earl of Derby); 1866 (The Earl Russel); and 1873 (William Ewart Gladstone).
If the government messes up the Budget, it has to resign
Gladstone’s 1885 Budget speech landed William Ewart Gladstone in trouble again.
A vote of no confidence was called for. The votes were tight: 252 Ayes against 264 Nays.
The next day, June 09, 1885 Gladstone’s entire Government resigned.
Six successful votes of no confidence occurred in the UK, from 1886 to 1924.
Callaghan’s rickety Coalition
In 1979, James Callaghan was Prime Minister.
The same troubles that ail Malaysia plagued Callaghan’s leadership – running a Government with a coalition.
To survive, he had to make deals with minor parties.
That did not end well.
On 28 March 1979, he faced a motion of no confidence in Parliament.
Those against him were 311. Those who supported him were 310.
The Queen, consequently, dissolved Parliament on April 07, 1979.
These examples show that there was no suggestion in these 25 examples of anyone being accused of disobeying or betraying the reigning monarch.
Thailand’s Vote of No Confidence
On February 28, 2020 the Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha and five of his Cabinet colleagues survived a vote of no confidence.
Although the Thai King enjoys an almost divine status, no one accused the MPs who moved a vote of no confidence as being guilty of disobedience or treason.
What about Malaysia? The case of Tun Razak and Tun Hussein Onn
Tun Abdul Razak Hussein was the second Prime Minister of Malaysia. He died on 14 January 1976, aged 53.
On 15 January 1976, the King appointed Tun Hussein Onn, then the Deputy PM as Prime Minister: he served from 1976 to 1981.
Hussein Onn did not rely on the mere proclamation of the then King. He put himself to the test.
On January 26, 1976 11 days after his appointment as PM, Hussein Onn convened an emergency meeting of Parliament.
He asked for a vote of confidence. He obtained it.
It was only then that Hussein Onn formally began his constitutional duties as Prime Minister. He could not be said to have defied the King.
One cannot block parliament
How is it possible for Hadi to put a block on the constitutional process which is well-recognised all over the world?
Ancient Malay Custom
To distrust the King can also mean, to question His Majesty’s authority.
That ancient Malay custom, was considered heinous.
By making such a statement, the idea is to accuse the Opposition of disobeying the monarch.
It is to accuse the opposition of engaging in improper conduct: that it not a good thing to say.
The real questions that need answering are …
The real question Hadi and his colleagues should ask themselves is – and you can be sure the entire nation has it on its mind – why are his colleagues, who are just now engaged in forming a government, reluctant to face Parliament?
For all he knows, Parliament might endorse Muhyiddin.
Why not try it?
“A vote of confidence is constitutional. It is one of the foundational principles of democracy and the Rule of Law”