Prime Minister of Malaysia (Malay: Perdana Menteri Malaysia) is the supreme head of government and the highest political office in Malaysia. The Prime Minister has always been from the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) part of Barisan Nasional (previously Alliance) since independence. Tunku Abdul Rahman was the Chief Minister of the Federation of Malaya, restyled to Prime Minister of Malaysia on 16 September 1963 after the formation of Malaysia. Federation of Malaya became independent on 31 August 1957.
The 6th and current prime minister is Najib Razak, who took office on 3 April 2009.
According to the federal constitution, the Yang di-Pertuan Agong shall first appoint as Prime Minister to preside over the Cabinet and requires such Prime Minister to be a member of the Dewan Rakyat (House of Representatives) who in his judgment is likely to command the confidence of the majority of the members of that House and must not a Malaysian citizen by naturalisation or by registration. The Yang di-Pertuan Agong on the Prime Minister's advice shall appoint other Ministers from either Dewan Rakyat or Dewan Negara.
The Prime Minister and his cabinet ministers must take and subscribe in the presence of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong the oath of office and allegiance as well as the oath of secrecy before they can exercise the functions of office. The Cabinet shall be collectively responsible to Parliament of Malaysia. The members of the Cabinet shall not hold any office of profit and engage in any trade, business or profession that will cause conflict of interest. The Prime Minister's Department (sometimes referred to as the Prime Minister's Office) is the body and ministry in which the Prime Minister exercises its functions and powers.
If a government cannot get its appropriation (budget) legislation passed by the House of Representatives, or the house passes a vote of "no confidence" in the government, the Prime Minister is bound by convention to resign immediately. The Yang di-Pertuan Agong's choice of replacement prime minister will be dictated by the circumstances. Ministers other than the Prime Minister shall hold office during the pleasure of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, unless the appointment of any Minister shall have been revoked by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong on the advice of the Prime Minister but any Minister may resign his office.
Following a resignation in other circumstances, defeated in an election or the death of a prime minister, the Yang di-Pertuan Agong will generally appoint as Prime Minister the person voted by the governing party as their new leader.
See also: Malaysian federal budget
The power of the prime minister is subject to a number of limitations. Prime ministers removed as leader of his or her party, or whose government loses a vote of no confidence in the House of Representatives, must advise a new election of the lower house or resign the office. The defeat of a supply bill (one that concerns the spending of money) or unable to pass important policy-related legislation is seen to require the resignation of the government or dissolution of Parliament, much like a non-confidence vote, since a government that cannot spend money is hamstrung, also called loss of supply.
The prime minister's party will normally have a majority in the House of Representatives and party discipline is exceptionally strong in Malaysian politics, so passage of the government's legislation through the House of Representatives is mostly a formality.
Under the Constitution, the Prime Minister’s role includes advising the Yang di-Pertuan Agong on:
- the appointment of the federal ministers (full members of cabinet);
- the appointment of the federal deputy ministers, parliamentary secretaries (non-full members of cabinet);
- the appointment of 44 out of 70 Senators in the Dewan Negara;
- the summoning and adjournment of sittings of the Dewan Rakyat;
- the appointment of judges of the superior courts (which are the High Courts, the Court of Appeal and the Federal Court);
- the appointment of the Attorney-General and the Auditor-General;
- the appointment of the chairmen and members of the Judicial and Legal Service Commission, Election Commission, Police Force Commission, Education Service Commission, National Finance Council and Armed Forces Council; and
- the appointment of the Governors of Malacca, Penang, Sabah and Sarawak.
Caretaker Prime Minister
Under Article 55(3) of Constitution of Malaysia, the lower house of Parliament unless sooner dissolved by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong with his own discretion on the advice of the prime minister shall continue for five years from the date of its first meeting. Article 55(4) of the Constitution permits a delay of 60 days of general election to be held from the date of dissolution and Parliament shall be summoned to meet on a date not later than 120 days from the date of dissolution. Conventionally, between the dissolution of one Parliament and the convening of the next, the prime minister and the cabinet remain in office in a caretaker capacity.
Acting Prime Minister
From time to time prime ministers are required to leave the country on business and a deputy is appointed to take their place during that time. In the days before jet aeroplanes, such absences could be for extended periods.
List of Prime Ministers of Malaysia
Colour key (for political parties):
Alliance Party Barisan Nasional
(birth and death)Constituency
|Term of office||Party||Duration|
|1||Tunku Abdul Rahman|
|31 August 1957||22 September 1970||Alliance Party (UMNO)||13 years, 22 days|
|1955, 1959, 1964, 1969|
|First Malayan Five-Year Plan; Malayan Emergency; Second Malayan Five-Year Plan; National Education Policy; Indonesia–Malaysia confrontation; Malaysia Agreement; PAP–UMNO relations; Independence of Singapore Agreement 1965; 1966 Sarawak Emergency; First Malaysia Plan; Association of Southeast Asian Nations; Organisation of Islamic Cooperation; 13 May Incident; Served as Minister of Home Affairs, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Minister of External Affairs, Minister of Information and Broadcasting, Minister of Youth, Culture and Sports. He is often referred to as Father of Independence (Bapa Kemerdekaan) and Father of Malaysia (Bapa Malaysia).|
|2||Abdul Razak Hussein|
|22 September 1970||14 January 1976||Alliance Party (UMNO)||5 years, 114 days|
|Razak Report; National Operations Council; 1971 constitutional amendments; Zone of Peace, Freedom and Neutrality; National Culture Policy; National Energy Policy; National Petroleum Policy; Second Malaysia Plan; Malaysian New Economic Policy; The youngest to be elected in the office, at the age of 48. Served as Minister of Education, Minister of Defence, Minister of Rural Development, Minister of National and Rural Development, Minister of Lands and Mines, Minister of Home Affairs, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Minister of Finance. He is referred to as Father of Development (Bapa Pembangunan)|
|14 January 1976||16 July 1981||BN (UMNO)||5 years, 183 days|
|Third Malaysia Plan; 1977 Kelantan Emergency; Malaysian Technical Corporation Plan; Fourth Malaysia Plan. Served as Minister of Education, Minister of Commerce and Industry, Minister of Finance, Minister of Coordination of Public Corporations, Minister of Defence, Minister of Federal Territories. He is referred to as Father of Unity (Bapa Perpaduan)|
|16 July 1981||31 October 2003||BN (UMNO)||22 years, 107 days|
|1982, 1986, 1990, 1995, 1999|
|Clean, Fair and Trustworthy; Look East Policy; Privatisation Policy; Malaysia Incorporated Policy; Buy British Last; Leadership by Example; 70 Million Population Policy; Heavy Industry Policy; Application of Islamic Values Policy; 1983 constitutional amendments; Fifth Malaysia Plan; 1986 Sabah Emergency; Operation Lalang; 1988 constitutional amendments; Vision 2020; Sixth Malaysia Plan; 1993 constitutional amendments; Seventh Malaysia Plan; Eighth Malaysia Plan; He is the longest-serving Prime Minister of Malaysia. He led the BN into 5 consecutive election victories. Served as Minister of Education, Minister of Commerce and Industry, Minister of Defence, Minister of Home Affairs, Minister of Finance. He is referred to as Father of Modernisation (Bapa Pemodenan)|
|5||Abdullah Ahmad Badawi|
|31 October 2003||3 April 2009||BN (UMNO)||5 years, 154 days|
|2004 , 2008|
|Ninth Malaysia Plan; The oldest to be elected in the office, at the age of 64. Served as Minister without Portfolio, Minister in the Prime Minister's Department, Minister of Education, Minister of Defence, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Minister of Home Affairs, Minister of Finance, Minister of Internal Security. He is referred to as Father of Human Capital Development (Bapa Pembangunan Modal Insan)|
|3 April 2009||3 April 2018||BN (UMNO)||8 years, 343 days|
|1Malaysia; Tenth Malaysia Plan; Eleventh Malaysia Plan; Prior to his appointment as PM, he served as Minister of Culture, Youth and Sports, Minister of Youth and Sports, Minister of Defence, Minister of Education, Minister of Finance. He is referred to as Father of Transformation (Bapa Transformasi)|
Living former Prime Ministers
Prime ministers are usually granted certain privileges after leaving office at government expense. Former prime ministers continue to be important national figures.
The most recently deceased prime minister was Tunku Abdul Rahman (1903–1990), who died on 6 December 1990.
If I were Prime Minister...
Four McGill students among top ten finalists in Magna contest
Mark Reynolds | If you were Prime Minister, what would you do? Cut taxes? Beef up the military? Send Paul Martin on a five-year "fact-finding" mission to Ellesmere?
Megalomaniacal daydreaming aside, being PM is a tough job, but four McGill students have a bit of a handle on how they'd start. Noah Billick, Nicholas Gafuik, Reynolds Mastin and Amitabh Saxena are among the ten finalists in the ninth "If I Were Prime Minister" essay contest sponsored by auto-parts manufacturer Magna Inc.
George Marsland, executive director of the Magna for Canada scholarship program, said he does not recall such a large contingent of finalists coming from one university before. It's an impressive feat: there were 500 entries this year, and these were narrowed down to 50 semi-finalists and then to the final 10.
Marsland explained that the goal of the contest is to create a community of young people who are engaged in public policy.
"We believe it's important to give back to the society and the country that we operate in. We believe that young people are the most important agents of change, and it's important in a healthy society for political institutions to have the input of young people," he said.
They put their money where their mouth is. Each of the 50 semi-finalists received $500 and other prizes worth $2,500. The 10 finalists receive a further $10,000, plus a four-month internship at Magna or at an NGO, as well as having their essay published in the contest's annual anthology. The winner gets a further $10,000 ($20,500 total), plus a year-long internship.
It's no walk in the park. Contestants submit a 2,500-word essay on "If you were Prime Minister of Canada what political vision would you offer to improve our living standards and ensure a secure and prosperous global community?" They then have to present and defend their ideas to a panel of judges that include Jean Charpentier (former press secretary to Trudeau), Major-General Richard Rohmer and journalists Mike Duffy, Joan Crockatt and Michael Harris. The winner will be announced at a gala in Ottawa in November.
The four McGill finalists drew on their own backgrounds and experiences. Noah Billick is a MBA/law student who, before returning to school after his undergrad, had been both a stockbroker and high-school teacher. He focused on the global security aspect of the question.
"When you look at the objective measures [like the UN Human Development Index], Canada always ranks very high," he said, adding that our country already has a very successful democratic tradition with good standards of living and accountable institutions. Billick believes that other nations can benefit from Canada's expertise. Already countries like South Africa have looked to Canada's constitution to rebuild their own institutions post-Apartheid.
Billick proposed formalizing this process by creating a knowledge bank of both procedures and experts that would be available to countries that requested them. Through this, Canada would gain international influence and respect. Ideally, countries that used our model would become more stable and economically competitive.
"A safer and more prosperous world benefits all of us," he said.
Fellow law student (and also a former teacher) Reynolds Mastin chose to focus on an issue a little closer to home in his essay. Growing up in Northern Ontario, Mastin was appalled at the poverty in which Canada's native people live on the nation's reserves. He listed a number of ideas to rectify what he considers to be one of Canada's greatest failings.
His ideas are somewhat controversial. One would be to sell reserve lands to occupants for $1. This would allow individuals to get bank credit — although it could also transform the reserve system beyond recognition. Another idea was to set up a National Aboriginal School of the Arts in Saskatoon.
His most controversial idea was to set up a social assistance program for off-reserve natives. Access to the program would require drug and alcohol counselling, unless the individual wished to participate in an approved testing program to receive an exemption, or obtained a note from a doctor or addictions counsellor. It's an idea that has drawn a lot of fire.
"That part of the policy seemed to overshadow everything else," he said ruefully.
"I wanted to put it in to provoke debate more than anything else. I think [the judges] respected that I put it in and argued for it."
Mastin said that in the end, he realizes such a policy does have serious flaws, but not discussing what are real problems will not do any good either. "I think the moral worth of the country is at stake."
Nicholas Gafuik looked more to Canada's international image in his essay. The MA student in history said that Canada has slipped greatly from our golden age of diplomacy in the 1950s. Regaining that place in the world would be his priority were he to occupy 24 Sussex.
More money for the military would be an important first step.
"I think for Canada to be strong at home, we have to be strong abroad," he said.
Our international achievements have historically been a source of pride for Canadians from coast to coast. To continue that effectiveness, we need to be able to adapt to the new realities of globalization, terrorism and an activist American government. Of his many recommendations, Gafuik suggested that Canada take the lead in reforming the United Nations' structure. Gafuik did his presentation from Cambodia, where he was working with The Future Group, an NGO he helped found.
Amitabh Saxena's entry was also coloured by international experience: he wrote his essay while travelling through Africa, working with an organization that provides computer literacy training to impoverished Kenyans.
Saxena advocates more international linkages for Canadian students through exchange programs and internships with Canadian companies abroad. His other priorities include lowering our trade dependency on the U.S., eliminating subsidies for Canadian farmers so poorer countries can compete more fairly on the international market, and dropping tariffs and providing international credit.
"Canada can be a catalyst just by encouraging trade and dropping these tariffs, because right now we're not even giving them a chance," he said.
None of the McGill finalists have decided what sort of internship they will look for with Magna or an NGO, but much of the money they've already won has been spoken for. Mastin and Gafuik are both paying off student debt. Saxena — an engineering graduate — is talking with his former faculty about establishing a leadership scholarship for deserving students. Billick, on the other hand, was able to put his to immediate use. "The money is nice because I just got married this summer. It was welcome."
For more information, please see www.asprimeminister.com
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