Friday, September 19, 2008

Anwar’s options

Thursday, 18 September 2008 22:34

By Leslie Lau and Shannon Teoh, The Malaysian Insider

There are many roads that can lead to power for the Pakatan Rakyat alliance if opposition leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim indeed has the support of a majority MPs in his hand.

Today, the so-called "prime minister in waiting" demanded that Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi convene Parliament next Tuesday to move against a motion of no confidence against the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition.

Next Tuesday is, of course, the day before Anwar goes back to court to face sodomy charges, in a trial he has claimed is politically motivated to stop in the tracks his challenge against the BN.

Such a move appears designed to play up the urgency of his moves to take power, and remove the threat of his court case.

By calling for a vote just days after Sept 16, when he failed to take power according to his self-imposed deadline, he is strengthening his case in his contention that he has the support to form the government.

The prime minister does not need to bring Parliament back into session on Anwar's say-so, and is not likely to.

And this will certainly lead to assertions from the opposition that Abdullah fears losing the vote.

Whatever happens, the stalemate will continue.

Constitutional expert Prof Abdul Aziz Bari believes that the Yang di-Pertuan Agong can also intervene to break the impasse.

"We are heading towards a stalemate," he told The Malaysian Insider.

But he points out that under Article 40a (2) of the Federal Constitution, the King may use his discretion to either appoint the prime minister or withhold consent for the dissolution of Parliament.

According to Abdul Aziz, the King could summon Anwar to the palace to furnish him with the list of MPs he claims supports him, and verify the claim by summoning the MPs as well.

He cited the initiative of the Rulers of Selangor and Perlis post-March 8 when they dealt directly with the elected lawmakers to ascertain their support.

"Should the claim by Anwar prove to be true then he needs to tell Abdullah to resign. This is actually putting the last nail in the coffin for as soon as Anwar manages to get 112 MPs with him, Abdullah no longer has the right to be in the PM's office," he said.

However, political analyst Khoo Kay Peng feels the most democratic answer is simply to wait until Parliament reconvenes on Oct 13.

"Anwar is using the only way possible now by asking the PM to resign. But it will not happen because even if Abdullah wants to comply, Barisan Nasional will not allow it. They would rather get rid of Abdullah than cede government," he told The Insider.

According to Khoo, there is no mechanism that Anwar can use to trigger a change in government until the opposition submits a motion of no confidence where legislators can vote democratically.

That is exactly what Anwar is now trying to do.

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