By V. Anbalagan | Free Malaysia Today

A vote on the floor of the Dewan Rakyat will clearly show support for the Prime Minister in numerical terms, says lawyer Edmund Bon. — BERNAMA

A “floor test” is the best option to determine whether the head of government retains the confidence of a majority of the elected representatives, according to two lawyers.

They said statutory declarations of elected representatives may also be used to gauge support for a Prime Minister, Menteri Besar or Chief Minister, following a 2010 Federal Court ruling.

According to lawyer Bastian Pius Vendargon, as the law stands, the Yang di-Pertuan Agong is at liberty to rely on SDs to determine whether the Prime Minister commands the confidence of the majority in the Dewan Rakyat.

Vendargon said the king may, following an election, have difficulty in determining the issue, especially if no political party or coalition has a clear majority in the lower house.

“However, when the country already has a Prime Minister, the best test of confidence is on the floor of the Dewan Rakyat,” he told FMT.

The senior lawyer spoke to FMT following Abdul Hadi Awang’s claim that his party is ready for a change of government through “democracy and (the) constitutional monarchy”.

In an opinion piece published in HarakahDaily, the PAS president and Marang MP was quoted as saying that any party which strives to uphold the principles of democracy would want to be in government, not remain in the opposition indefinitely.

Hadi said a change in a democratic system can occur via the ballot box, through a motion of no confidence passed by elected representatives, or if there are enough SDs to prove that the Prime Minister lacks sufficient support to remain in power.

The PAS president’s comments followed reports of discussions alleged to have taken place in the United Arab Emirates last month between opposition leaders and certain government representatives – dubbed the “Dubai Move” – relating to a bid to unseat Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim.

On Sunday, PAS election director Sanusi Nor claimed the Perikatan Nasional coalition, of which the Islamic party is a member, has already obtained sufficient SDs to overthrow Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim’s unity government.

In 2010, the Federal Court ruled that there was nothing to prevent the Sultan of Perak from assessing whether the state Menteri Besar continued to command the confidence of the majority without a vote being taken in the legislative assembly.

A five-member panel of the apex court ruled that evidence of any loss of confidence may be gathered from extraneous sources, provided the lack of support is conclusively established.

In that case, three state assemblymen defected to cause the collapse of the Perak state government led by Nizar Jamaluddin. Relying on SDs, the late Sultan Azlan Shah, the state’s ruler at the time, appointed Zambry Abdul Kadir as Perak’s new Menteri Besar.

Despite the decision, Edmund Bon, who was on the team of lawyers representing Nizar in the case, said a vote on the floor of the Dewan Rakyat remains the better option.

“It is best to go back to the House. A vote will clearly show support the Prime Minister enjoys in numerical terms,” he added.