The much-anticipated election of a Deputy Speaker in the Malaysian Parliament has been postponed to allow for an amendment of the federal Constitution that will increase the number of deputies from two to three.
The election will now be held at the next Parliament meeting, when budget 2022 will be tabled in October, after the motion to delay it was passed by a voice vote yesterday.
"Our reason for suspending the appointment of the Deputy Speaker is that we want to table amendments to the Article 57(1)(b) to allow for the appointment of Deputy Speakers to be increased from two to three," said Law Minister Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar when tabling the motion.
"The Constitution doesn't say who will be the Deputy Speaker... We will create a rule, maybe, so that one of the Speakers is from the opposition.
Datuk Seri Wan Junaidi added that the matter has been discussed with the Attorney-General, and the government is hoping that it will be approved in October.
The Malaysian Parliament has two Deputy Speakers, and one of the posts was left vacant after Umno lawmaker Azalina Othman Said resigned last month.
On Sunday, Deputy Speaker Rashid Hasnon, who is from Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia, said that there would be a vote in Parliament if there was more than one candidate put forward to replace Ms Azalina.
Last Saturday, the secretary-general of Malaysia's largest party Umno, Datuk Seri Ahmad Maslan, who was nominated by the government for the post, suggested that a third position be created to be filled by a lawmaker from the opposition Pakatan Harapan (PH) bloc.
He made the suggestion a day after the opposition objected to his nomination, with PH suggesting instead that Teluk Intan MP Nga Kor Ming of the Democratic Action Party (DAP) assume the post.
The DAP is part of the PH and Mr Nga was Deputy Speaker for two years after the opposition bloc formed the government following its unprecedented victory in the general election in 2018.
Ahmad is currently standing trial for money laundering and providing a false statement to the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission over RM2 million (S$646,000) he received from former premier Najib Razak, then leader of Umno, in 2013.
Batu Gajah MP V. Sivakumar, who is from the DAP, has demanded an explanation from Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob for nominating Ahmad as Deputy Speaker.
Mr Sivakumar described the decision as an open assault on Parliament's reputation as Ahmad is part of a so-called "court cluster" in the party, referring to the group of Umno lawmakers who were charged with graft when PH was in power.