KUALA LUMPUR: Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak can still become prime ministers even if an amendment — which seeks to limit the tenure of the premier to two terms — is passed in the Dewan Rakyat.
Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Liew Vui Keong explained that the provision would only come into effect after the amendment to the Federal Constitution is passed and gazetted into law, and is not retroactive in nature.
“It only comes into force on the date that will be gazetted by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong. The amendment will not affect the previous terms of the current prime minister (Mahathir),” he told a press conference in Parliament, here today.
Asked if Najib would be given a similar “privilege” should he ever be appointed as prime minister again in the future, Liew said: “It is prospective. So if he comes back, he can still hold (the prime ministership) for two terms.”
For the record, Mahathir was the Prime Minister under the Barisan Nasional (BN) banner for 22 years before retiring. Under Pakatan Harapan (PH) now, he is closing in on his second year in power.
Najib, in comparison, was prime minister for two terms between 2009 and 2018, when BN lost federal power.
Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, who was Najib’s predecessor, only completed a single term as premier, from 2003 to 2009.
The Constitution (Amendment) Bill 2019 to limit the term of the prime minister was tabled for the first reading by Liew today, with the second and third reading to be tabled in the next Parliament sitting in March of next year.
The move is part of the PH manifesto, which claimed that this move was necessary to curb excessive powers and would enhance integrity.
Last October, Mahathir had announced that the government was in the midst of limiting the tenure of the prime minister, along with the mentris besar and chief ministers to two terms.
Meanwhile, Liew pointed out that as the amendment would affect the constitution, it required a two-thirds majority support of the Dewan Rakyat for it to be passed, a privilege the ruling coalition does not currently enjoy.
“We want to have all the support from the House, and we will start working from now to get that support,” he said.