Kelantan state legislature seat vacant after assemblyman voted out

KOTA BARU (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - A seat in the Kelantan state legislature is vacant after its assemblyman was voted out on Tuesday (July 11) by most of his fellow lawmakers.

Datuk Mat Yusoff Abd Ghani, who is from the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition's Umno party, had been declared a bankrupt by a court in Selangor in May.

The seat vacancy opens up the possibility of a by-election in Kelantan, amid talk that the Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS) state government of 27 years has been weakened after rebels formed a new party in 2015.

Speaker Abdullah Ya'kub declared the seat vacant effective on Tuesday, based on the votes cast to disqualify Mr Mat Yussoff over the Insolvency Department's decision to declare him a bankrupt.

In the balloting held at the state assembly in Kota Baru, 32 out of the 45 assemblymen voted to disqualify him. Nine others abstained while three assemblymen were absent.

"I hereby declare Mat Yusoff is no longer qualified to be an assemblyman, and the Nenggiri seat is vacant effective today," the Speaker announced.

On June 1, Datuk Abdullah had called a press conference to declare the seat vacant based on the Insolvency Department's letter dated May 28 affirming Mr Mat Yusoff's status as a bankrupt.

On June 7, Mr Mat Yusoff hit back, claiming that the Speaker had breached the state Constitution by declaring the seat vacant without the consent of the state assembly.

Mr Mat Yusoff pointed out that the House should have decided on the disqualification of an elected representative as stipulated under Article 32 of the state Constitution. The Article states that the state assembly should be the proper forum to decide on the disqualification of an elected representative.

Tuesday's balloting came after a call by state Human Development, Education and Higher Studies committee chairman Datuk Dr Mohamed Fadzli Hassan to resolve the issue.

A by-election is unnecessary as the state assembly's tenure expires in less than two years, and the vacancy does not destabilise the government's majority.

In the 2013 general election, Mr Mat Yusoff won 6,654 votes to defeat the opposition Parti Keadilan Rakyat's Mohammad Azihan Che Seman and independent candidate Abd Aziz Mohamed by a 3,849-vote majority.