Wednesday, November 23, 2022

Balancing for a Government

There is a lot to write on the 15th general election (GE15) but nothing was extraordinary worthy to write of. Its the same ole same ole. 

Coincidently, Dr Nungsari told BFM radio yesterday that all parties were offering goodies than mentioning the elephant in the room of an impending recession and tight fiscal situation. A similar view expressed in the earlier posting

The resolution to the no clear majority by any political block is interesting. Despite its disappointing showing, BN could not sit out of government to be opposition and was dragged in to the role of kingmaker. 

Without their 30 seats, no side has the majority to form a government. Its in a bargaining position that PH is willing to have UMNO lead the coalition government in the states of Perak and Pahang. How will Agong resolve it for the federal government?

First pass the post

The Malaysian parliamentary democrasy system involves the head of the nation, being the Yang Di Pertuan Agong as King, appointing a person commanding the majority of Dewan Rakyat as head of government who in turn form the government.  

Majority is defined as more than 50% of the members of the Parliment. If there are 222 seats in Parliament, majority translate to at least 112 (crossing the 111 as half of 222). 

Without the majority of seats, no majority is attained and there will be no Prime Minister. Any announcement by Agong is considered as caretaker or interim PM. Agong is bound to act in accordance with the constitution. 

The result of GE15 made it difficult in determining a majority. Malaysia has moved from a single dominant coalition party environment to a multi-party political nightmare that resulted in votes split and difficulty for any party or block to attain a majority. 

Without a major dominant party or coalition, the political parties need to negotiate with other parties or coalition to form another coalition government with the majority to govern. Negotiation can take time from days to weeks and in the case of Belgium, more than a year.  

The 165 seats in Peninsular Malaysia is distributed between 3 major blocks of PH, PN and BN that needed any permutation of PH-BN or PH-PN or PN-BN to govern. Competition is intense at the ground that no permutation is acceptable to competing leaders and supporters. 

Failing which, no government can be formed. As much as BN expressed willingness to be opposition and not be in government with PH or PN, there will be no government for them to oppose. 

Minority government

In more developed democrasy in the west, there is the option for a minority government. The party or block without the majority needed the confidence and supply support (CSA) to make for majority. It refers to the vote of confidence and vote for the supply bill, two important ingredients for a functional government. 

An example is the minority government of Canada led by Justin Trudeau's Liberal Party. The liberal party has 160 seats in Parliament but majority needed is 170 seats. The New Democratic Party with 25 seats supported the Liberal Party to approve the budget. This essential made the Liberal Party government. 

A block of party such BN could offer support but not join the government due to various reasons. It could be due to ideological reasons. Or they prefer to give conditional support than form a coalition and have the option to oppose government policies other than the budget.    

For Malaysia, CSA is perhaps a possible option should PH or PN or BN could not form a government on for principle or interest reason. Bear in mind that the SCA is only in the newly passed anti-hopping law. It is cannonised in the constitution and no law can supercede the constitution. 

Unity government or re-election

Another option is for a Unity Government (UG), which Agong and BN has suggested to both PH and BN but Muhyiddin explicitly refused yesterday thus attracting accusation of repeating his disrespect to Agong. 

By definition a UG is one that has no opposition and the government involves all parties. The proposed PH-PN or PH-BN or PN-BN are not unity government but considered coalition government. UG is usually formed during crisis and seldom happened during peace time. 
In 2021-2022, Italy tried to form the unity government called Brothers of Italy despite the absence of  few political parties. It failed badly because  government needed to please all parties before making any major decision that it made government decision-making slow and ineffective.   

If all option fails, then re-election is the answer. It happened in Israel for 2019 to 2021. Since no majority outcome and negotiations fell through, Israel held a general election four times till a majority government is formed. 

Democratic downside

If it is a hustle to return to hometown and queue to vote again, Malaysia could emulate Belgium to have a caretaker government and maintain Ismail Sabri as caretaker PM for 500 days. Caretaker means government remain as usual without making new policies. 

Belgium is a small country and developed. Malaysia could not do so especially with a looming recession and its fiscal position need be addressed immediately. Ismail Sabri is no capacity to appreciate the problem. 

The country will be in a standstill and left to the negotiation skill, wisdom and whatever left of the conscience of our "Yang Berhormat"s to break the political deadlock. Since the constitution is the highest law of the land, than the definition for majority need tweaking.  

Democrasy is supposed to champion the rights of all. It offers the freedom and rights to all parties. However there is pro and contra argument for or against guiding democrasy for a certain purpose. Some situation does not warrant for democrasy. In certain situation, democrasy only leads to excessive corruption, compromise the integrity and self respect of the affected parties.  

It is not BN doing but the current impasse taken away the democratic rights of majority who enabled a party or tow to win the election but left to the minority to determine the choice of government. All because the quasi two party system of the past broke down. 

Something for Malaysians to reflect

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