Can Parliament appoint a Prime Minister?

Mahathir announced that Parliament can pick a new PM. Is that constitutional?

Mahathir’s first move

Mahathir, on resignation on February 24th, made three moves.

I deal with the second move (fiscal promise) here. The third, which concerns the legality of the Special Sitting of Parliament, is here.

We now turn to his first move: Mahathir did this shortly the King politely turned aside his request for a ‘unity government’.

Mahathir announced that Parliament ‘will pick the new prime minister’. Al-Jazeera reported it.1

Was that legal?

No.  Why?

Numerous lawyers spoke of it. Their reasoning was clear only to the legal fraternity. The people did not understand it.

So, there is a need to explain why.

Only the King can name a prime minister

The constitutional power to name a PM is in the hands of the monarch, and him alone.

The opening words of Article 43(1)(a) of the Constitution confirm that.

‘The [King] shall first appoint as [Prime Minister] … a member of the [Dewan Rakyat] who in the King’s judgement is likely to command the confidence of the majority of [the Dewan Rakyat]’.2 Art 43(2)(a) says

It is the only Article in the Federal Constitution that deals with the prime minister’s appointment.

You will see straight away that there is nothing there about Parliament picking a prime minister’.

Unconstitutional and preposterous

So Mahathir’s suggestion is not only unconstitutional but preposterous.

Mahathir is the nation’s most experienced politician

Look at his credentials:-

He first became a member of Parliament 56 years ago by winning the Kotar Setar Selatan constituency in 1964.

As far back as 44 years ago was appointed as a Deputy Prime Minister, , in March of 1976.

In 1981, after Tun Hussein Onn resigned, Mahathir was appointed as the Prime Minister in 1981: that was 39 years ago.

And he remained as Prime Minister for more than 22 years. He went on to retire’ in 2003, but returned, in 2018 as the 7th prime minister, after a 15-year break.

How could such an experienced man make so huge an error?

Why did that happen?

I have no idea: you tell me!


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