2020-07-02 13:07:00  2300136
Dewan Rakyat Speaker should be non-partisan

Sin Chew Daily

Prime minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin will table a motion when the Dewan Rakyat resumes its sitting on July 13 to replace Speaker Tan Sri Mohamad Ariff Md Yusof and deputy speaker Nga Kor Ming.

From what we understand, the incumbent election commission chairman Azhar Azizan Harun is a possible candidate for Dewan Rakyat Speaker.

The other deputy speaker Mohd Rashid Hasnon will be retained.

Ariff, Nga and Rashid were all nominated by Pakatan Harapan even though Rashid has since defected from PKR to PPBM.

Azhar, whom Muhyiddin has named as the new Speaker, is politically known for his inclination towards PH. In view of this, it comes as a surprise that the PN government has named him as the candidate for the next Dewan Rakyat Speaker.

Azhar's legal professional background makes him a decent candidate for the post, but the thing is, he is not an MP from any political party. The PN administration led by Muhyiddin only has a wafer-thin majority of 114 out of 222 seats in the Dewan Rakyat, and PN must make sure all its MPs get to vote on major issues. Proposing a non-MP as Speaker will avoid depleting one vote when it comes to voting.

If Muhyiddin's motion to remove Ariff and Nga is eventually passed and a new Speaker is installed, it should be sufficient to state that the prime minister indeed has the support of majority of MPs.

To PN, this is a very significant strength in the assembly, giving it the upper hand in the adoption of major future motions, including the annual budgets, or vetoing motions hostile to the ruling alliance. The no-confidence motion tabled by Tun Mahathir in May was accepted by Ariff, and the replacement of Speaker now is largely perceived as a move geared towards this no-confidence motion.

That said, the replacement of Dewan Rakyat Speaker has come all too sudden. The Parliament will normally not replace a Speaker half way, save for valid reasons, such as the Speaker is no longer fit for the post.

Muhyiddin's move is seen as an attempt to strengthen his own position. However, it is not unconstitutional for Muhyiddin in his capacity as an elected representative to table a motion to replace the Speaker.

Once Azhar gets to become Speaker, it is unjustifiable for opponents to accuse the government of exploiting him as a tool of the ruling party, given his pro-Pakatan background.

Under the Westminster parliamentary system, Dewan Rakyat Speaker should traditionally be non-partisan. As such, it is believed that Muhyiddin has nominated Azhar for that office to shed the stereotyped impression that the Dewan Rakyat Speaker office has been chronically viewed as a government tool, in a bid to preserve the impartiality of the assembly.

While PH does not wish to see Ariff and Nga replaced, it lacks powerful reasons to reject Muhyiddin's candidate because of Azhar's favorable background as a candidate.

Although Perikatan Nasional is the ruling party, it is nevertheless a very loose alliance. Both Umno and PAS see themselves more of components of Muafakat Nasional than PN.

Meanwhile, PH is also in disarray, thanks to discord over the prime ministerial candidate. Differences among the component parties will have a negative bearing on the group's continued cooperation.

Appointing a non-MP and non-partisan figure as Dewan Rakyat Speaker helps protrude the assembly's functionality and performance while lifting its overall dignity.

Given Azhar's legal professional background, he is more than capable to perform his duty although it will pose a severe challenge to him to stay neutral and not side any party.

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