Malaysia's political tumult: Key questions remain

Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad's motorcade arrives at the National Palace in Kuala Lumpur on Feb 24, 2020. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

PETALING JAYA (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - The appointment of Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad as Malaysia's caretaker Prime Minister following his resignation has given some certainty on the country's leadership but key questions still remain.

A few of the most pressing questions on the minds of many Malaysians will be when he will form a new government, who will serve as the next Deputy Prime Minister and what the Cabinet line-up will look like.

Earlier on Monday (Feb 24), Dr Mahathir submitted his resignation as Prime Minister to Malaysia's King, Yang di-Pertuan Agong Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri'ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah.

The Chief Secretary to the Government issued a statement on Monday night saying that the King had accepted Dr Mahathir's resignation.

However, the King also appointed Dr Mahathir as interim prime minister while awaiting the appointment of a new prime minister in line with Article 43(2)(a) of the Federal Constitution.

Dr Mahathir also resigned as Bersatu chairman on Monday and according to party secretary-general Datuk Marzuki Yahaya, he remains a member of the party.

On whether Dr Mahathir will be able to serve as Prime Minister beyond his current position as a caretaker leader, Article 43 (2)(a) states that the Yang di-Pertuan Agong will appoint a Prime Minister who in his judgement is likely to command the confidence of the majority of the members of the Parliament.

This effectively means that anyone who wishes to become the Prime Minister must be able to convince the King that he or she has the support of the majority of lawmakers, which means at least 112 members from the 222-seat Parliament.

As such, Dr Mahathir would only be able to form a new government after he is appointed Prime Minister, having managed to secure the necessary support from MPs.

Another question is who the next Deputy Prime Minister will be.

According to a legal expert, the Constitution is silent on the position of a Deputy Prime Minister.

All eyes will also be on the next Cabinet line-up and how soon it can be appointed.

According to lawyer Datuk Seri Gopal Sri Ram, the interim Prime Minister can choose an interim Cabinet line-up and present them to the King to be sworn in.

"When Parliament is convened, a floor vote is then taken and if the interim PM and Cabinet get the confidence of the majority of MPs, they remain in the positions and are no longer interim.

"If the interim Prime Minister chosen by the King does not want to serve in the position, he can advise the King on a successor who commands the confidence of the majority of lawmakers," he said.

In the event that Dr Mahathir manages to secure support from a majority of the lawmakers and goes on to serve as Prime Minister, there are clues which can be relied on to indicate which positions he will try to fill first.

When Dr Mahathir became Prime Minister after the last general election, he first appointed three Cabinet appointments, namely Finance, Defence and Home.

This was followed by a second batch of nine other ministers for the portfolios of Education, Rural Development, Economic Affairs, Housing and Local Government, Transport, Communications and Multimedia, Human Resources, Agriculture and Agro-Based Industry and Health.

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