RPK's latest post carries a very provocative title. Nonetheless he has a few good points which (coincidentally, would you believe it?) I share and would have posted last night but alas I was too busy. However, I have to state that my thrust would have been different to his point. Thus, I won't follow RPK's provocative path wakakaka.
In any Westminster-styled democracy, a majority ruling party has the legitimate right to govern the country for the full term prescribed in the constitution, whether the term is 5 or (in the case of Australia) 3 years.
There seems to a current fallacy that Najib is cheating the voters because he has thus far refused to call or ignored the calls for an election now (though there are now hints he might do it in November, this year of course wakakaka).
On a related issue, though not central to my post topic, there is also a fallacy that Britain does not have a written constitution. It does, except the articles (rules) are not written in one convenient 'book' like ours, with all its rules (or articles) in one single tome.
The Brits have their constitutional rules scattered all over, among the pages of the Magna Carta, Petition of Rights, Bill of Rights, Act of Settlement, Parliament Acts, Representation of the People Act, case laws such as Case of Proclamations, each written at various stages in their history stretching from around 1215 (Magna Carta) to 1969 (Representation of the People Act), over a period of some 750 years. And no Pakistani legal expert helped, thank you, wakakaka.
Anyway, fast forward to the present, and the topic to be discussed.
As we read almost everyday, there have been condemnations (or at best, criticisms) of Najib for 'refusing' to call for an early general election when the actual 5-year term for the BN as the ruling party will only expire some time in March 2013.
Understandably, most of the condemnations have been from PKR where an impatient and at the same time optimistic Anwar Ibrahim believes the tide has swung in his favour. His party and supporters have been conducting psy-war against Najib, attempting to goad Ah Jib Gor into an early election.
Understandably too, Najib appears to be going for the full term, or at least not dancing to Anwar's tune, because it's obvious he (Najib) has assessed BN will be at a disadvantage if he were to call for an election now.
And why would he, when the more time he has, the more monkey tricks he can bring about, wakakaka. Alas, it's his prime ministerial constitutional right.
Now, why did I want to (coincidentally) write about the full term for an elected government, though I had already mentioned Najib's prerogative to go for the full 5 years in a couple of previous posts?
Two recent events persuaded me to.
One - Down in Australia, PM Julia Gillard has just stated very clearly her government will go the full 3-year term BUT in exhibiting her prime ministerial prerogative a la Westminster-styled democracy, reserves the right to call for an early election, even if 'early' means a month or two before the run-out date.
In fact, recently I read in the newspapers downunder that Australia's Constitution allows a ruling term to be slightly over the so-called maximum 3-year term, of course by only a few weeks for some administrative reasons. I am not sure whether the Malaysian Constitution provides for that.
Thus Najib has the same prime ministerial prerogatives to run his government for the full term of 5 years, or if he wants to, sneak in an early request to HM the Agong to dissolve parliament. I have a different view to RPK in that the Agong doesn't have much say, as he 'has to' heed the PM's 'advice' to dissolve parliament, more so under Malaysian constitutional terms.
Two - The other reason which suggests to me to blog on this issue had come as a total surprise to me. Actually I was mildly shocked when 3 days ago, I read Free Malaysia Today's Delay polls and risk punishment.
If it had been Anwar who said that, I would have accepted that he's correct in pushing for the election a.s.a.p. because the BN is currently in a politically precarious position. If it had been Pak Haji Hadi Awang, Lim Guan Eng or even my hero Karpal Singh, it would be normal politics.
But when I read that it was another of my heroes, Ambiga Sreenevasan, who warned Najib that his continuing dilly dallying in calling for an election could prove to be perilous for him and BN, I was gobsmacked.
She said that it would not come as a surprise if the voters, including the fence-sitters, punished him for this feet-dragging in the next polls.
“I understand it is the Westminster system and it is the prerogative of the prime minister. But a good government should be prepared to take on the election and not be afraid to set a date,” she told FMT.
“We have been in election mode since he [Najib] took over and everyone has been pumped up. He drops hints [about the polls] and that is irresponsible. You don’t toy with people’s feelings.
“People are fed up! They can’t plan things like going on holidays and so forth. Furthermore, it affects investor confidence.
“That’s why I say it is irresponsible. If this is how a government is going to play with the election date, then it would be best to have a fixed date for polling,” she added.
Obviously Ambiga knows her laws as she said "I understand it is the Westminster system and it is the prerogative of the prime minister." So why did she see it necessary to warn Najib into an early election. I don't know then, and I don't know now.
I'm intrigued because Ambiga is not a politician where her only aim (at least thus far) as Bersih's co-chair has been about clean and fair elections, so whether Najib wants to run the full wicket or call for an early election would and should not be her concern.
Besides, in March this year, she had as co-chair of Bersih called for a Delay in polls until all reforms have been met.
In fact she said "Hold off polls until reforms are met. We still have until next year, there is still time" in response to Ongkili's excuse that the Parliamentary Select Committee on electoral improvements could not meet all of Bersih’s demands as some matters required a longer-term solution.
Why has she since changed her mind and by her statement appears to be 'politically' involved? Is she thinking of standing as an election candidate in GE-13?
But regardless, since when has a PM of a nation which has adopted the Westminster type of democratic system advised his/her intention to call an early election well in advance?
Julia Gillard has just shown she is exercising her prime ministerial prerogative vis-à-vis calling an election before the term of her government runs out, specifically only when she wants to, and probably at the very last moment - though in practical terms, the Aussie system requires a few weeks (to include a reasonable period of election campaigning)!
The other point about Westminster-styled democracy is that it is NOT a presidential election involving voting for an individual to be PM, but about which political party emerges with a ruling majority (yes, I'm aware of minority governments but those would be exceptions to the rule), ...
... and for that winning party to nominate who should be the PM. I believe Ling Liong Sik was once PM for a while, when Dr Mahathir and Ku Li bashed it out, wakakaka.
Thus it doesn't matter that Najib didn't head the BN when it won the March 2008 general election. What matters would be BN as the party with the majority of parliamentary seats, where the party can then nominate one of its MPs to be the PM.
Anyway, though it'll be a first for Westminster-styled democratic system, Ambiga had been right in stating "it would be best to have a fixed date for polling" and which Lim Guan Eng is now pushing for.