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How Is Malaysia’s Prime Minister Actually Chosen?

How Is Malaysia’s Prime Minister Actually Chosen?

Hamzah Nazari

Up till the last General Election, Malaysia’s Prime Minister had always been the leader of the largest political party.

Before 2018, that would have been the president of Barisan Nasional/Umno.

In GE14 Pakatan Harapan chairman Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad returned as Prime Minister even though his party, PPBM, only won 12 seats.

In comparison, 4 parties won bigger: BN had won 79 seats, PKR had 48, DAP had 42, and PAS had 18.

PPBM was a relatively small party at the conclusion of GE14.
(Pic Credit: The Star)

So how did Dr Mahathir become Prime Minister?

You see, Malaysia follows the Westminster Parliamentary System and according to the official rules, political parties and coalitions don’t matter.

The Prime Minister is actually whichever member of parliament (MP) has the most support among the other members of parliament.

In a two party system like Malaysia, that would mean they need more than half the MPs to support them; 112 out of the 222 seats, though a bigger margin would be more stabilising.

Pic Credit: DannyG15 via Wikipedia Commons

So, in reality, if MPs vote across party and coalition lines, they can appoint or remove, or even keep, any Prime Minister they want.

But MPs in Malaysia rarely do so because they almost always contest in elections as members a political party.

It was previously quite rare for a Malaysian politician to leave their party and earn the nickname of “frog” but since GE14, there have been many MPs switching sides.

With BN component parties going independent and MPs defecting from Umno and possibly even other parties, it’s practically raining frogs.

Changes to Malaysia’s Parliament as of Jan 2020.
(Pic Credit: Wikipedia)

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