PETALING JAYA: When the country goes to the polls on Saturday, the big question will not be so much about who will win, but whether a a new government can be formed to lead the nation soon.
This is because there is a likelihood that no party or coalition will be able to get a simple majority of 112 seats in the 222-seat Parliament.
That would trigger some frenetic negotiations over several days among party leaders, making the post-elections scenario even more tense than the 14-day campaign itself.
It could well go back to the hands of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, say constitutional experts.
In the event of a hung Parliament, the King could help resolve the impasse by giving parties time to negotiate and cobble together an umbrella coalition with the required majority, constitutional lawyer Datuk Gurdial Singh Nijar said.
“The coalition with the most seats can then enter into discussions with others to secure a majority. The party with the next highest number of seats can also do the same.
“Whoever secures a majority can then present the outcome to the king and ask him to appoint their chosen leader,” he said.
Universiti Malaya Prof Shad Saleem Faruqi, in a recent article in The Star, said the King was not bound to appoint the leader of the party that has more seats than all other parties if there is a hung Parliament.
“He may give a chance to anyone who, in his opinion, can put together a working majority.
“The appointments of prime ministers in 2020 and 2021 are cases in point,” he said.
He noted that there are no written provisions in the Constitution on how the King should exercise his wisdom in determining who has the majority support.
“He may require a vote of confidence in Parliament or he may interview individual MPs (as the King did in 2020). Affidavits may also be accepted or party leaders interviewed,” he said.
If unresolved, the King could even appoint a minority government that can work with the Opposition through a Confidence and Supply Agreement.
“In this arrangement, the Opposition promises support on major issues but stays out of government,” he said.
Alternatively, a unity government could be formed with the encouragement of the King.
Such a government can be stable but it may suffer from being too bloated as many people have to be pleased, he said.
Senior lawyer Mohd Haniff Khatri Abdulla said that, if there was no simple majority, the King will have to determine if anyone commands the support of the majority.
“The King will have to invite leaders of the political parties which have the most number of seats for the purpose,” he said.
“This was the case when former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad resigned on Feb 24, 2020.
“The King appointed Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin as prime minister five days later after he secured the support of the majority of MPs,” he said.
It also happened when Muhyiddin resigned on Aug 16 last year. Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob was appointed by the King four days later.
“The King may allow for several days or a week of negotiations. It would be unreasonable if negotiations go on for a month,” he said.
Until then, the King may appoint an interim prime minister.
“The interim prime minister can be any MP who need not command the majority support in the House but has the respect of the people.”
Once a leader is deemed to have the majority support, Mohd Haniff said he could then be appointed as prime minister.
So far, Barisan Nasional election director Datuk Seri Mohamad Hasan, Pakatan Harapan chairman Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim and Perikatan chairman Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin have all expressed confidence that they could get the 112 seats to form the government.Research houses, however, say that surveys show that no one coalition would be able to do so, with possibly none of them even breaching the 100-seat mark.