It has been an unprecedented step for the Agong during an unprecedented week in politics for Malaysia. Today he issued, as a public statement, his ‘advice’ to politicians. Advice which ought to be offered only privately and treated merely as advice at that.
Why? Because of Covid?
Broadcasting the royal opinion is strictly outside the constitutional role of the King and this extraordinary move has inevitably been treated as an intervention in the policies and politics of the country.
His statement referred to the correctly expressed desire of elected MPs to see the recall of Parliament, to be allowed to test who holds the majority and to debate policy – namely the proper operation of the constitutional democracy – as “politicking” and “bickering”.
It was a statement which projected annoyance and disapproval from the Palace that a minority leader imposed by the Agong himself is being nonetheless expected to command sufficient MPs to govern, rather than doing so by royal ‘decree’.
This astounding and haughty dismissal of the role of elected representatives in the political life of the country has been interpreted, intentionally or otherwise, as seeking to bolster an administration that the Agong had in the first place appointed in a manner that was contrary to established practice and to the expressed wishes of MPs – and which now admits it cannot achieve majority support.
The Agong’s proclaimed advice (eagerly treated as if it were a binding ‘decree’ by the desperate PM8) is for the minority government’s budget to be approved.
Having, on the advice of the Council of Rulers, rightly rejected an outrageous and audacious attempt by this flailing administration to seize authoritarian powers to push this budget through therefore, he is now interfering to support it anyway, since PM8 lacks the proper majority needed to make it pass.
In fact, after a year of sidelining Parliament during a national health and financial crisis after seizing power in March, the clear democratic solution for this current impasse is for ‘PM8′ to step aside and for Parliament to be called to allow the leader with the largest number of supporters to attempt to form a government where ‘PM8′ failed. This was what ought to have happened back in March after Anwar Ibrahim was nominated by the clear majority of MPs who were canvassed by the Agong after Mahathir resigned.
Instead, the Agong called Muhyiddin, whose shock rebellion had destabilised the government in the first place, and whom not one MP had nominated for the job. In a further violation of the democratic process Muhyiddin did the exact opposite of testing his ‘majority’ in Parliament, but rather delayed calling it for several months (because he knew he didn’t have it).
Covid came in as a marvellous excuse, of course, to keep delaying Parliament whilst ‘Moo’ set about exploiting his unconstitutional incumbency to bribe over MPs and build a majority he didn’t have. Don’t ask Sarawak Report to prove these were his tactics, he has been recorded bragging about the entire strategy and it has been heard by all.
Malaysians were left disgusted during the ensuing months as a spree of bribery and office mongering was conducted in broad daylight in order to achieve control of sufficient MPs. Nonetheless, it has turned out that Muhyiddin was out of date on the subject of ‘money politics’ post GE14 and that Azmin had bragged excessively about the handful of rebels he actually secured. Despite disgorging huge sums of public money on the project they still cannot command the elected Parliament to feel safe enough to call it.
So, why has the Agong invested so much of his credibility (much boosted by the rejection of the State of Emergency) on interfering in the process, instead of allowing MPs to sit and call a motion of Confidence to help thrash this matter out?
More to the point, why has he not PRIVATELY ‘advised’ his dud appointment ‘PM8′ to resign his post so that the opportunity can be handed to a more likely candidate?
Why instead do we see characters like Hishamuddin Hussein being pushed to the fore (as projected DPM) – the cousin of Najib Razak who was caught luring Azmin Ali into the establishment fold within just weeks of the election as they shared an exotic foreign holiday in the Middle East?
Unfortunately, these present abuses of the democratic processes by entities which most Malaysians seek to hold in deep respect have begun to look, walk and talk like one thing only: namely an establishment push-back against the mighty inconvenient outcome of an election that provided the first democratic transfer of power since independence.
The political elite of UMNO lost their money-making network – indeed a number are now rightly facing conviction for the criminal theft of millions along with abuse of power. And a swathe of lucrative royal contracts were ‘brutally’ cancelled in favour of the public interest within days and weeks of the PH government taking over. These included massive development projects and unnecessary power plant investments. Najib had always been so accommodating in such matters.
Imagine the fury, fear and concern on the part of privileged circles used to helping themselves to the public wealth over such a turn of events. And then consider the plotting that likely then ensued. There were contracts to be revived, convictions to be reversed, friendly foreign princes to be placated and got off the hook. Certainly, that is what it is beginning to look like, given the present obstruction of the political process by those who ought to know better.
Hishammuddin needed merely to liaise with the long-term UMNO fixer Hamzah Zainudin to lure the likes of Azmin and the ambitious establishment politician from Johor, Muhyiddin himself, to turn enough MPs to destabilise the elected administration. In the days before the coup the to be ‘PM8′ was summoned to the palace of Johor and spent many hours briefing his royal patron, who has close familial ties with the present Agong as all Malaysians know.
The up-coming budget is highly likely to reverse a number of the unpleasant slaps on the face delivered to the elite houses of Malaysia by ‘PM7′. Cancelled IPP contracts are currently being revived. Who knows what other goodies are being pushed through in the name of ‘Covid Stimulus’?
What is deeply troubling is that the Agong has ‘advised’ in the form of a publicly issued press statement for this highly sensitive and likely enormous budget to be adopted anyway – in advance of the contents being made known and in advance of proper due scrutiny – even though the majority of the country’s elected MPs are concerned and troubled about the contents on behalf of their constituents.
That is why the Agong has been ill-advised over his advice.
After all, why has he not at the same time ‘advised’ in his public statement for the coup government to allow for a vote of confidence, which its unconstitutionally appointed Speaker is refusing to do because they fear to lose.
The solutions to Malaysia’s present manufactured crisis clearly exist in established parliamentary practice which could likely within hours restore a majority government, were the Agong to cease condoning the blocking of procedures.
Instead, he is steadily lending unfortunate, if possibly unintended, support to antics that undermine the principles of parliamentary democracy and the government of the elected majority. The Agong did well to prevent the State of Emergency, but should now allow politics to take their course without belittling the role of the supreme elected representatives of the people.
After all, as a constitutional monarch must surely know, “policking” is what politicians are there to do, so that he can enjoy his privileges hopefully in perpetuity by keeping out of it.