A legitimacy crisis is being played out in Perak’s state government, triggered by the defection of three PR state assembly members, two of whom are facing corruption charge. Their defection overturned the state government's slim majority, and resulted in the February 6 appointment of Datuk Dr Zambry Abdul Kadir as the new mentari besar, displacing Datuk Seri Mohammad Nizar Jamaluddi from the position.
The heart of the controversy centers around the legality of the appointment of the chief minister: who decides whether a chief minister commands the confidence of the majority of the state assembly members, the sultan or the state assembly?
On Thursday, the Sultan of Perak, the constitutional monarch, consented to the appointment of a new BN government after he was convinced the BN had the majority in the state assembly.
However, Mohammad Nizar and his state government committee members, for their part, are insisting they remain the legitimate government and that the sultan has no constitutional right to dismiss him.
On February 13, Mohammad Nizar filed an application in the Kuala Lumpur High Court, seeking a declaration that he was still the rightful menteri besar of Perak and to bar Datuk Dr Zambry Abdul Kadir, who was appointed menteri besar on Feb 6, from discharging his duties.
To add to the complications, those who disagree or protest the sultan's move are at risk of finding themselves described asmenghina (showing no respect) or worse, derhaka (traitorous) to the sultan.
Behind the legal technicalities, the current impasse reflects a larger battle for political control of Malaysia. Perak, along with Selangor, Penang, Kedah and Kelantan had fallen to the opposition PR in the last general election.
For now both Nizar, who is still holding on to the chief minister's official residence where hundreds of supporters have been gathering every night, and the BN are engaged in a battle of wills.
Bernama, “DAP-PAS-PKR Pact On Verge Of Break-up?”, Feb 14 2009 http://www.bernama.com/bernama/v5/newspolitic.php?id=389738
AsiaTimes Online, “A battle of wills in Malaysia’s Perak“, Feb 11, 2009, http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Southeast_Asia/KB11Ae01.html
The Hindu, “Malaysian govt. seizes two Opposition newspapers” , Feb 11, 2009, http://www.hindu.com/thehindu/holnus/000200902111673.htm