All you need to know about Malaysia's unity government
A unity government is formed by a coalition of parties that can comprise several main blocs alongside smaller parties. In a unity government, parties from opposing sides of the political divide can form a government and govern together.
Constitutional expert Prof Shamrahayu Ab Aziz said that the royal decree issued on Thursday by the Malaysian King to appoint Anwar Ibrahim as prime minister did not specify the form of government to be constructed, although the King had previously suggested a unity government.
A unity government is a unique power-sharing structure that is formed when no single bloc gains a sufficient majority to form a government.
She said a unity government is thought to be one of the main choices because it is considered capable of achieving unity among the Malaysian communities.
"For this purpose, political parties and political players play an important role to celebrate differences and strengthen unity," she said.
The form of government is a privilege owned by the prime minister, who will also advise the King on the appointment of the Cabinet.
However, the King's suggestions for a unity government must be given the highest consideration, she added.
"The selection of members of the Cabinet is the right of the prime minister, who at the same time determines the type of government that will serve the country.
"Even so, the recommendations or advice of the KIng about the type or form of government recommended by the King need to be given the utmost attention by the prime minister and the relevant parties.
"This is because the decree of the King is not merely a suggestion but an order that must be obeyed," said Prof Shamrahayu.
In 2018, after resigning as prime minister, Dr Mahathir Mohamad proposed the idea of leading a unity government across the political divide as a way out of the country’s political instability.
Other countries that had been under a unity government include Italy, Greece, Afghanistan, Lebanon, Israel, Zimbabwe and Kenya.
Meanwhile, Anwar Ibrahim said on Thursday that he plans to invite the Perikatan Nasional (PN) coalition – a bitter rival to his Pakatan Harapan (PH) in the general election – to join the unity government that he leads.
Speaking at his first news conference as premier, Anwar said the rights of the Malay majority and Malaysia’s official religion of Islam will be protected, but that he will also defend the rights of all other ethnic groups and all Malaysian territories.
“I am proposing that Perikatan Nasional consider whether they are ready to support the government which is now strong and stable” to uphold the King’s decree, Anwar said.
“This is a national unity government. All are welcome on condition that you accept the fundamental rules of good governance, no corruption, and Malaysia for all Malaysians,” he said.
The news conference was held at a golf club in Sungai Long near Kajang town in Selangor state, on the edge of capital city Kuala Lumpur.
Earlier on Thursday, PN leader Muhyiddin Yassin asked Anwar to prove his parliamentary majority.
He said PN had 115 lawmakers supporting the coalition on Tuesday, when the King, Sultan Abdullah Ahmad Shah, asked for PH and PN to send in their list of lawmakers.
The number is above the minimum 112 seats needed to control the 222-strong Parliament.
Muhyiddin had on Tuesday rejected joining the unity government offered by the King.
On Thursday, Anwar said he will call for a vote of confidence to show his majority on the first day of the sitting of Parliament, on Dec 19. “So the concern of legitimacy will not arise,” he said.
Apart from his PH coalition, which has 82 seats, the Prime Minister said the members of his unity government are Barisan Nasional, with 30 seats, and Gabungan Parti Sarawak, with 23. This would make a total of 135 seats.
Speaking about the Malay-Muslim majority, which had mostly voted for PN, he said that their rights will be protected.
“I am firm in the efforts to raise the status of the Malay language as the national language. I understand the need to elevate the status of Islam as the official religion of the federation, the special position of Malays and bumiputera, as contained in the Constitution, and our system of governance that ensures the respected and sovereign status of the Malay rulers,” he said.
He added that while the Malay race and culture, and the Islamic religion, are key foundations, the new government will also guarantee the rights of all other ethnic groups and religions, and all territories of the country.
On the differences in the manifestos of various parties in his unity government, Mr Anwar said he will never compromise on core issues, such as the need for good governance, judicial independence and eradication of corruption.
Most importantly, he will address the cost of living issue to protect the welfare of ordinary people, he added.
Anwar is taking helm of the country as the economy is rebounding from the coronavirus pandemic and experiencing high inflation, like most countries around the world.
He said: “My main focus will be the economy. I am grateful because today, the situation and investors’ confidence have changed. The ringgit has strengthened and the stock exchange is energised.”
Both the stock market and the ringgit performed strongly on Thursday on optimism over Anwar’s appointment.
The Straits Times
Asia New Network