Election Commission chief Azhar Azizan Harun (photo, above) risks being seen as 'pak turut' (puppet) to the executive if he is elected as the Dewan Rakyat speaker in the upcoming Parliament sitting, said political scientist Wong Chin Huat.
He said this is due to incumbent speaker Mohamad Ariff Md Yusof having left a track record for openly defying the requests of Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin and his predecessor Dr Mahathir Mohamad.
Wong was referring to Ariff turning down Mahathir's request to call for a Dewan Rakyat sitting on March 2 and accepting a no-confidence motion against Muhyiddin that was initiated by Mahathir himself.
"The speaker is doing well, and I am not sure how his replacement could even achieve this.
"That's important, a speaker who dares not defy the prime minister will be seen as a puppet, and the House will be seen as an echo chamber to the executive," he added in a talk livestreamed today.
Wong said by default, Ariff's replacement risks being seen as acting in favour of the government.
"As a man with integrity, he (Azhar) will find himself in an awkward and detrimental position (due to perception) that he replaced Ariff because the latter is not a puppet to the prime minister.
"I support and admire him. I feel that this is rather unfair for him," he said.
Meanwhile, PKR Tangga Batu MP Rusnah Aluai questioned Muhyiddin's rationale for replacing Ariff.
"According to a copy of the Order Paper we received, the prime minister wants to replace Ariff because there is another candidate," she said.
While acknowledging that the Standing Order of the House allows the speaker to be replaced, Rusnah pointed out that there is no mention of replacing the speaker in the Federal Constitution.
She said Ariff was working on reforming the legislative branch and pushing for the separation power as pledged by Pakatan Harapan in its 2018 manifesto.
"Why the need to replace Ariff when he is doing well? Why not let him complete the parliamentary term so that he can reform the Parliament," she said.
Last month, Muhyiddin submitted the motions to replace both Ariff and deputy speaker Nga Kor Ming. The motions are expected to be tabled during the Parliament sitting beginning July 13.
Muhyiddin’s majority in the Dewan Rakyat could be tested when MPs vote on any government motion and not just on the one appointing a new speaker and deputy speaker.
Pakatan Harapan, and NGOs such as Bersih and G25, have urged the government to retain Ariff.