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Thursday, January 30, 2014

Law expert: Palace can't say no to MB candidate

The Sultan of Selangor has no legal right to reject a candidate as menteri besar as long as that candidate commands the support of the majority of the state legislative assembly, constitutional law expert Abdul Aziz Bari said.

Assessing the possible scenario raised by PKR de facto leader Anwar Ibrahim’s bid to enter the state assembly through the Kajang by-election, Aziz said if Anwar is presented as the new MB, the sultan cannot say no.

The law professor said the palace only has discretionary power in the appointment of the head of government when it is not clear whether the candidate presented commands the support of the House.

The likely Selangor scenario, Aziz said, is different from the Perak constitutional crisis, where there was a dispute over whether then-menteri besar Mohammad Nizar Jamaluddin (left) had majority backing.

“In Perak it was 50-50. In Selangor, Selangor DAP has already voiced support for Anwar’s candidacy.

“With the backing of DAP and PKR, this means that if Anwar is presented as the candidate to replace Khalid he will have the support of the majority of the House, whether or not PAS backs it,” he told Malaysiakini.

In the 13th general election, PAS won 15 seats, PKR 14 and the DAP 15 of the 44 Selangor legislative assembly seats.

Selangor PAS Youth had earlier threatened to boycott  the Kajang by-election, but this seems to have been trumped by the party’s central leadership, which said it will stand by PKR.

According to Aziz, the Selangor constitution is identical to the federal constitution on the appointment of the head of government, except that Selangor requires the MB to be a Malay and Muslim.

Article 53(2)(a) of the state constitution states that the sultan shall appoint as menteri besar “a member of the state legislative assembly who in his judgment is likely to command the confidence of the majority of the members of the assembly”.

‘Only deference’

Aziz’s reading of the constitution goes against Khalid’s statement, in which the menteri besar said the palace could ask for an alternative candidate for post if the ruler does not agree with the candidate proposed.

Khalid, in an interview with Malaysiakini, said this was not uncommon and has taken place before in menteri besar appointments in the other states.

“What does it mean? He (the sultan) can say, ’Can I have another person?’ We look at the history of Perlis, Terengganu, Kedah and Pahang. It is common.

“(The sultan) may not accept the new candidate... And do you know that it may not just be one group (vying for the post)? There will be other groups lobbying for the job,” Khalid had said, referring to coalition partners PAS and DAP.

Aziz said that in the examples cited by Khalid, the sultan in the states in question, too, had no legal right to choose but were allowed to do so out of deference.

The constitutional expert, who was sacked from his post at Universiti Islam Antarabangsa over controversial statements made about the powers of the palace, added that the sultan also cannot dissolve the assembly on his own accord.

“He can only dissolve the assembly upon request of the menteri besar. From recent developments, it appears that Khalid will step aside so this scenario is academic,” said the professor, who had contested in the 13th general election on a PKR ticket.

The Kajang seat was vacated by PKR’s representative Lee Chin Cheh to trigger a by-election in what PKR argues is a tactical move to push for Putrajaya.

Anwar’s candidacy for the by-election, which must take place within 60 days of the seat’s vacation, was announced by Khalid.

PKR Youth said this could pave the way for Anwar to replace Khalid as the menteri besar.

However, critics have slammed the party for triggering a by-election to sort out an internal dispute between Khalid and rival factions within Selangor PKR.

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