Is Perikatan Nasional’s (PN) “conditional” support for Umno vice-president Ismail Sabri Yaakob as the next prime minister valid?
While lawyer Ambiga Sreenevasan argued such support did not count, a former aide to PN chairperson Muhyiddin Yassin has contended otherwise.
In a long Facebook post today, the caretaker PM’s former principal private secretary Marzuki Mohamad (above) found no issue with PN’s recent statement.
“I don’t understand why certain quarters say PN’s declaration of support for Ismail Sabri is invalid just because of the condition that the PM must be free from criminal charges.
“And (the condition) that the PN government must respect the principle of separation of power, judicial independence and constitutional monarchy,” he said.
Yesterday, Muhyiddin said PN and its 50 MPs’ supported Ismail Sabri provided that the latter’s cabinet ministers were “with integrity, responsible and free from criminal charges”.
MPs were supposed to state their support for their PM candidate sans conditions.
This curveball prompted Ambiga and several opposition MPs to express their concerns over the stability of Ismail Sabri’s premiership.
In response, Marzuki downplayed concerns that PN’s conditions were “invalid”.
He said: “Among the oaths a PM must swear is to uphold the Constitution. Separation of powers and judicial independence are part of the constitutional provisions that must be upheld by anyone appointed as PM.
“Before the cabinet is appointed, a vetting process will be done to ensure a future minister has no criminal record, is free from corruption, has no outstanding Internal Revenue Board payments and is not bankrupt. This is in line with PN’s conditions.
“This is not something unusual. What is unusual is if this is not done.”
The condition imposed on Mahathir as 7th PM
For example, Marzuki pointed to how Dr Mahathir Mohamad had been appointed as the seventh prime minister on the condition that PKR's Dr Wan Azizah Ismail was made his deputy.
The second condition was he had to pass on the premiership to PKR president Anwar Ibrahim.
Marzuki wondered if PN’s critics were reading outside the Federal Constitution.
“I tried looking for the term 'unconditional confidence of the majority' in Article 43(2)(a) of the Federal Constitution. I did not find the word ‘unconditional’.
“Therefore, do not simply add things that are not in the Constitution,” he added.
Earlier, Bersatu’s Saratok MP Ali Biju similarly disputed the concerns raised by Ambiga and the others.
Political groups can set conditions
Bersatu supreme council member Muhammad Faiz Na’aman also discredited those disputing the validity of PN’s support.
“They claim the support of 50 PN MPs does not fulfil Istana Negara’s requirements for support for any PM candidate to be unconditional.
“But what they did not say was that the palace’s instructions were for individual MPs when writing their declaration letters to the Yang di-Pertuan Agong.
“It was not aimed at any stance taken by any particular political group,” Faiz said in a statement.
He went on to stress that there was no constitutional provision that stopped groups from setting conditions when declaring their support for any PM candidate.
“The difference is whether these conditions were revealed or not. These conditions are not necessarily threats. They suffice as principles and advice,” he added.
Faiz further questioned if these critics were “opportunists” responsible for a plot to instal a unity government or to push for Anwar as the deputy prime minister after he seemingly lost out to Ismail Sabri for the top job.