Alas, the parties have finally acquiesced to royal demands, with many of them forgetting that in a political democracy it's the political party which commands the majority in the State Assembly (outright or through a coalition, formal or otherwise) who picks the CM or MB, or at the federal level, the PM, to be approved by the constitutional ruler, only as a formal procedural step.
I had posted this reminder of the people's right and power two days ago in Perak Papadum Ping Pong Primadonnas, where I stated:
… kaytee believes the coalition has done something quite stupid. In submitting 3 names to the Sultan to choose it has unwittingly involved royalty in State politics in an unprecedented way. It’s not for the Sultan to choose from a list of three.
Certainly the Sultan can disagree with a name but he should only be given one name (at a time). For example, the Sultan could say no to DAP's Ngeh and say, gimme another name! But it’s not for HRH to be given 3 names and decide on one he prefers. The choice of an MB is a political one and to be left to the political parties as elected by the rakyat.
A rejection of a proposed candidate is still a royal prerogative of HRH only if the candidate was found to be, say, a bankrupt, a potential bankrupt or even a previous bankrupt, associated with notorious social scandal (a suspected rapist but ...), believed to be of unstable temperament or have suffered mental breakdowns or depression, etc, but HRH cannot and should not be making a political decision by choosing one name from a list of three.
Yes, the ruler cannot reject the candidate forwarded for his approval, save where, as mentioned above, there is perceivable concerns the candidate has a dodgy record or perhaps is infirmed, etc* which may affect the proposed candidate’s ability to head the State government.
* an example of ‘etc’ being the case of the new Selangor State government where the ruler wanted to confirm the new MB has the support of a loose (informal or not registered) coalition –see my post Post election snippets (1). I had stated: "The Sultan wants to ensure that the coalition can be a stable one. Obviously he doesn't want his State to be run like Italy, where shaky minority governments are changed faster than underwear."
Now, the Star Online has indicated two worrying cases where the State rulers of Perlis and Terengganu have taken it into their hands (or heads) to appoint their choices against that proposed by the winning political party.
In the case of Perlis, the situation has been compounded by PM AAB stating (stupidly, on paper) who should be the MB, and just leaving it to the State BN party to forward that name to HRH for royal consent, when in fact he doesn't have the constitutional authority to appoint MBs.
Professor Shad Faruqi, a constitutional law expert, said that under Article 39(2) of the Perlis Constitution, the Raja of Perlis has the prerogative to ascertain who commands the confidence of the majority and thus should be made MB after the elections; he added that it was unconstitutional for the PM to determine who would be MB.
Of course while Prof Shad Faruji has pointed out a legal fact, the reality is Shahidan Kassim is officially the state BN’s candidate and shouldn't be viewed as the PM's selection, a political choice which HRH should accept. The PM putting his signature on the selection of Shahidan is out of (legal) step and muddies the legal water.
But with a very much (party) weakened PM, compounded by a State UMNO already in strife way before the election precisely because of the candidature of Shahidan, some leaders in the State UMNO have conducted an administrative coup d'état by naughtily whispering in the ruler’s ears.
Prof Shad has been diplomatic in also stating that he was sure the PM’s legal faux pas has not been intended to usurp the powers of the Raja of Perlis, and that the ruler as well did not have absolute discretion in making his choice.
But he pointed out, in obvious mitigation of the unprecedented action of a constitutional monarchy: “The palace should not be involved in politics. The Raja of Perlis should be above politics and not allow personal feelings to colour his judgment,” but that it was only proper for the ruler to pick someone who was the acknowledged political leader and had the confidence of the majority.
However, he didn’t reveal how the ruler has determined who were the ‘majority’ who had confidence in and acknowledged Md Isa Sabu as the leader to be appointed as the MB.
All the Prof said was the palace was approached by people not wanting a particular candidate to lead their state. Well, obviously the ruler must have believed their whisperings because Md Isa Sabu has been appointed the MB.
‘…the palace was approached by people not wanting a particular candidate …’!
Has that been enough? Unbelieveable? Well, you better believe it because in the halus kabus world of Malay palace intrigues, beat-around-the-bush diplomacy and oblique directives, that’s all we public are going to get.
But this is terrible for democracy, and as if it was not bad enough especially after the Perak imbroglio, it seems on the East Coast, the Terengganu palace, yes royalty again, has come up with the names of two BN assemblymen to take over from Idris Jusoh. Hey, who’s the political party that won the State election? The Palace?
While Prof Shad is obviously correct about the rulers having that constitutional right to approve MBs, he also pointed out rather clearly the rulers should NOT be involved in politics and do NOT have absolute discretion in making their choices, and ought not to allow personal feelings to colour their judgments.
Yes, those rulers should accept the political parties’ choices, save in the most obvious case of a candidate who's mentally, physically or legally unfit to head the administration.
In the rulers' increasing (and unjustified) discretion in such appointments the Sultans must have found comfort from the support (direct or otherwise) of the stupid political parties undermining each other.
The rulers had been living in tolerated disgrace following the castration of a notorious royal brother by Dr Mahathir (rightfully so and an action fully supported by most Malaysians), but since then they have (under a certain erudite leader) slowly but steadily been clawing their way back to prominence and regained respect and adulation from their subjects.
In fact they have already reclaimed lost grounds if we recall how many anti-BN people, desperate for a political messiah, have even considered Raja Nazrin as a potential saviour in Malaysian politics, without even realizing what adverse consequences to democracy they have been promoting.
I suspect the rulers’ unprecedented actions are also collectively a strike back at federal intrusion into and dominance of State affairs and powers over the years, since arch-monarchist Tunku Abdul Rahman left office under a political ‘Et Tu Brutus’ cloud.
Much as I respect, admire and have supported Lim Kit Siang, I believe he has been the one who opened the royal Pandora box when he abdicated the political rights of the DAP-PKR-PAS in deciding who should be the MB for Perak to the Sultan of Perak (as represented by his son the Regent).
Uncle Lim was of course attempting to minimise adverse DAP grassroot reactions to his party agreeing to a PAS MB when the DAP has the most number of seats in the coalition. So, he staged a public sandiwara (theatrics) of being against a PAS man becoming the MB of a State while pushing the decision making to the ruler.
He must have thought it would be brilliant tactics to abdicate the (publicly) difficult decision of accepting a PAS man as MB of Perak to the Perak royalty, but he didn't realize it would be bad strategy to surrender political rights to a constitutional monarchy, who through such small gains will shift gradually from a constitutional status to an increasing absolute authority.
The sadder irony of it all, and the most gross injustice to Uncle Lim, is he has been portrayed as a racist by some anti-DAP bloggers (and I am not talking about the BN) as well as some Malaysiakini journalists and columnists, even though the issue has never been about race but rather, the PAS avowed political intention to make Malaysia into an Islamic State governed by Islamic syariah laws.
But as for most things in Malaysia, why let facts stand in the way of a good emotional (and sinisterly contrived) bashing of the DAP, specifically at the very figure of Lim Kit Siang!