Can Anwar Ibrahim be parliamentary opposition leader when his party, PKR, has lost its position as holder of the largest number of seats among opposition parties? This question has surfaced in the wake of the expulsion of Zulkifli Noordin, MP for Kulim Bandar Baru, from PKR last Saturday for flagrant breaches of party and Pakatan Rakyat etiquette.
The sacking brought to 27 the number of MPs PKR tallies up in Parliament (including one from PSM which ran under PKR banner), down from a table-topping 31 that conferred on Anwar the role of opposition leader, if not by arithmetical logic then by dint of the PKR supremo's stature as putative leader of the Pakatan coalition.
Before the departures from the PKR stable, DAP had the second largest number of seats at 28, and PAS had 23. Ibrahim Ali, MP for Pasir Mas, consigned himself to the independent category despite having won his seat on a PAS ticket. Two MPs belonging to the Sabah party, SAPP, departed the BN fold in 2008 to become independents.
After three MPs - Zahrain Mohd Hashim (Bayan Baru), Tan Tee Beng (Nibong Tebal) and Mohsin Samsuri (Bagan Serai) – left PKR to become independents in quick succession in the last three weeks, the party was tied with the DAP as the largest bloc among opposition MPs. The sacking of Zulkifli, a move so long delayed that when it occurred, the fact it would relegate PKR to the second largest bloc of MPs among the opposition was elided from calculations of its impact on the opposition's hierarchy in Parliament.
Not that the calculation would have stayed the hand of decision in the matter, but the cathartic flush felt by the party over its release from a suppurating wound was undeniable. It was a very much a case of 'Be gone and damn the consequences'. Further, DAP and PAS' unhesitating backing of the iconic Anwar for continued tenancy as opposition leader helped mute the consideration that Pakatan is not yet a legal entity. Hence a decision by this unregistered body lacks legal force.
Parliamentary rules can be arcane and an interpretation in favour of Anwar's continued tenancy is unlikely to be made, given the trend of decisions from the speaker's chair. Anwar's occupation of the role is considered vital to his keeping together a coalition whose intramural tensions are sublimated in the face of repression from the Umno-dominated BN.
In recent weeks, this pressure has reached new heights with a plethora of police reports lodged against Pakatan MPs for alleged sundry offences and there has been an intensification of attempts to induce defections from its fold. Pakatan is being put through the wringer. If it emerges from its ordeal largely intact, its mettle and that of its critical leaders would be deemed 'Putrajaya-ready'.- Terence Netto
So, what is the problem? Nothing in the constitution that says the leader of the largest opposition group must become opposition leader. The Malaysian constitution can be interpreted which ever way you want. The apex court judges are good at that........