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Parliament is derived from the French word “parlement”. Parler is to speak where parlement is

a discussion or a realm to throw out opinion in decision making. Parliament in a literal way

means a legislature.A Legislature is a type of representative deliberative assembly with the

power to create, amend and ratify laws. The law created by a legislature is called legislation or

statutory law. Parliament is the law making body in most democratic countries. Despite having

one person making law in authoritarian or dictatorship, parliament is a center of to discuss and to

decide in making a law. These three words parliament, legislature and democracy stand in one

line of similarities and connection.

Abraham Lincoln’s great description of democracy, government by the people, for the people, of

the people, is true if we look upon the voting system or electoral system where as from the

beginning of forming a government, party system, passing legislation, decision, choosing a

leader and etc are made through voting process. Therefore the power is in the hand of the people.

The selected people or group (government) is just a representative to execute input and command

from the below, theoretically.

Here is the definition of democracy quoted from Wikipedia, “Democracy is a system of

government by which political sovereignty is retained by the people and exercised directly by

citizens. In modern times it has also been used to refer to a constitutional republic where the

people have a voice through their elected representatives. It is derived from the Greek;

democratia which was coined from (dēmos), "people" and (kratos), "rule, strength" in the middle

of the 5th century BC to denote the political systems then existing in some Greek city-states,

notably Athens. In political theory, democracy describes a small number of related forms of

government and also a political philosophy. Even though there is no universally accepted

definition of 'democracy', there are two principles that any definition of democracy include. The

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first principle is that all members of the society have equal access to power and the second that

all members enjoy universally recognized freedoms and liberties.”

Practically speaking, a vice versa situation occurred in few countries and scenario. The reasons

behind these are the kind of system which is practiced nowadays in modern times. Democracy is

divided into various types and guidelines. There are many types of democracy to be listed but

few are commonly used which are constitutional democracy, parliamentary democracy,

republican democracy. Not to be confused that many dictatorship have called them self

“republics” but generally do not protect the rights or liberty of their citizens.

To speak about parliament, there are many types of parliamentary system exist the modern time.

Each of this type differ from many aspects but parliament exist as the main law making body.

Parliamentary republic will be looked upon to compare and contrast with presidential republic. In

short presidential republic is a system of government where an executive branch exists and

presides separately from the legislatures.

We will discuss further on this topic on Parliamentary democracy:

Parliamentary democracy

Parliamentary democracy where government is appointed by parliamentary representatives as

opposed to a 'presidential rule' by decree dictatorship. Under a parliamentary democracy,

government is exercised by delegation to an executive ministry and subject to ongoing review,

checks and balances by the legislative parliament elected by the people government is exercised

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by delegation to an executive ministry and subject to ongoing review, checks and balances by the

legislative parliament elected by the people

Types of Parliamentary Democracy

There are broadly two forms of Parliamentary Democracies.

• Westminster System or Westminster Models tend to be found in Commonwealth of

Nations countries, although they are not universal within nor exclusive to Commonwealth

countries. These parliaments tend to have a more adversarial style of debate and the

plenary session of parliament is relatively more important than committees. Some

parliaments in this model are elected using "First Past the Post" electoral systems, (e.g.

Canada, India and the UK), others using proportional representation, e.g. Ireland and

New Zealand. The Australian House of Representatives is elected using the alternative or

preferential vote while the Senate is elected using PRSTV (proportional representation

through the single transferable vote). However even when proportional representation

systems are used, the systems used tend to allow the voter to vote for a named candidate

rather than a party list. This model does allow for a greater separation of powers than the

Western European Model, although the extent of the separation of powers is nowhere

near that of the presidential system of United States.

• Western European Parliamentary Model (e.g., Spain, Germany) tend to have a more

consensual debating system, and have semi-cyclical debating chambers. Proportional

representation systems are used, where there is more of a tendency to use party list

systems than the Westminster Model legislatures. The committees of these Parliaments

tend to be more important than the plenary chamber. This model is sometimes called the

West German Model since its earliest exemplar in its final form was in the Bundestag of

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West Germany (which became the Bundestag of Germany upon the absorption of the

GDR by the FRG).

To what extent is the parliament as a democratic law making body? Parliament is a legislature

body in parliamentary system government. Democratic literally means upholding a democracy

and democracy means a situation or system in which everyone is equal and has the right to vote

and make decisions. In the nutshell, parliament is a law making body that has an option and

decision made accordingly to the favor of people’s interests in order to uphold the democracy. To

say some irrelevant or impracticable idea, a decision may not be discussed or be informed to

whole citizens because it is out of mind to gather millions of people in one hall. This is

ridiculous. Therefore in the mother of parliament model, the Westminster model provides a

representative system for each constituencyand the parliament in Westminster system, is the best


upon Westminster model in detail. Quoted from Wikipedia:

“The Westminster system is a democratic, parliamentary system of government modelled after

that of the United Kingdom system, as used in the Palace of Westminster, the location of the

Parliament of the United Kingdom. The system is a series of procedures for operating a

legislature. It is used, or was once used, in the national legislatures and/or sub-national

legislatures of most Commonwealth and ex-Commonwealth nations, beginning with the

Canadian provinces and Australian Colonies in the mid-19th century. There are other

parliamentary systems whose procedures differ considerably from the Westminster system.”

Malaysian parliament is modeled after this Westminster system and we follow almost of these

characteristics stated below:

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• a sovereign or head of state who is the nominal or theoretical holder of executive power,

and holds numerous reserve powers, but whose daily duties mainly consist of performing

the role of a ceremonial figurehead. Examples include the British monarch, the presidents

of many countries and state/provincial governors in federal systems.

• a head of government (or head of the executive), known as the prime minister (PM),

premier or first minister, who is officially appointed by the head of state. In practice, the

head of government is almost always the leader of the largest elected party in parliament.

• a de facto executive branch usually made up of members of the legislature with the senior

members of the executive in a cabinet led by the head of government; such members

execute executive authority on behalf of the nominal or theoretical executive authority.

• parliamentary opposition (a multiparty system);

• an elected legislature, often bicameral, in which at least one house is elected, although

unicameral systems also exist;

• a lower house of parliament with an ability to dismiss a government by "withholding (or

blocking) Supply" (rejecting a budget), passing a motion of no confidence, or defeating a

confidence motion. The Westminster system enables a government to be defeated, or

forced into a general election, independently of a new government being chosen.

• a parliament which can be dissolved and elections called at any time.

• Parliamentary privilege, which allows the Legislature to discuss any issue deemed by

itself to be relevant, without fear of consequences stemming from defamatory statements

or records thereof.

• minutes of meetings, often known as Hansard, including an ability for the legislature to

strike discussion from these minutes.

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Most of the procedures of the Westminster system have originated with the conventions,

practices and precedents of the Parliament of the United Kingdom, which are a part of what is

known as the Constitution of the United Kingdom. Unlike the unwritten British constitution,

most countries that use the Westminster system have codified the system in a written


However, uncodified conventions, practices and precedents continue to play a significant role in

most countries, as many constitutions do not specify important elements of procedure: for

example, some older constitutions using the Westminster system do not mention the existence of

the cabinet and/or the prime minister, because these offices were taken for granted by the authors

of these constitutions.

PM in Westminster have a lot of power in executive and may perform any decision. This might

have two effects, if the PM is a prospective, charismatic and competent he may please the whole

citizen by fulfilling his manifesto. But a different situation may occur, because mainly in this

model the PM is elected from the winning party in election party. He may not be the favourite

person in the eye of the citizen but he have trusts at his party member. Therefore he may face a

lot of oppose in parliament and by the people. This is how it works. In parliamentary democracy,

there are certain models like questions time and etc. members of executive which is also the

Member of Parliament may have a debate decision between the other members of the parliament.

Therefore opinions are voice out and any uncertainties will be answered in the parliament. Even

though a PM in Westminster model may have the power in the government but mostly they have

to obey the constitution if they went overboard. For example, a PM must accord to FC and if he

fails to do so he may be voted out if he has lost the confidence of the majority of parliament.

Upper House Membership

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In Westminster system, not all members of parliament is elected by vote, for example members

in upper house, some are appointed by the head of government. In the case of Malaysian

government, the ratio of appointed members and elected members of dewan Negara is 44:26.

How can a parliament uphold democracy it members are appointed. This is absurd. That is why

upper house nowadays are given less power compared to the lower house. Upper house may just

have the power of reviewing even though in some cases they have the rights to veto and delay

law making process. Intended primarily by the framers of the Federal Constitution to be the

defender of state interests and a revisory body, the Dewan Negara originally comprised more

elected members. It has crushed any hopes that the Dewan would play an effective role in the

legislative process.

Regarding the appointed members of upper house, if we look on the bright side, proven the

picture in Malaysian case, where traditionally Barisan Nasional control 2/3 of seats in

parliament. They can form a government and based on the system executive members must came

from either each of the both houses. For example, Dato Seri Sami Vellu is the only person who

can handle the work ministry while others are unfit for the position. In the recent general

election, he lost his position in parliament and unable to retain his office in the cabinet. Then the

PM may appoint him as a senate in the Upper House as a staircase to become part of executive

member. The PM has the power to appoint he see that no other MP are suitable for the position.

To look on the bright side, the department of work may be held by someone competent but

unpopular rather than popular but not competent. But still this is against the idea of democracy as

Dato Seri Sami Vellu does not represent the people. So people’s interests are not voice out but

the nation’s future is secured.

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In the worst case scenario, some members of upper house may have a lifetime power and seat in

the parliament. House of lords is the best example of the scenario. “…..Membership of the House

of Lords was once a right of birth to hereditary peers, but following a series of reforms the

House now consists almost entirely of appointed members…” This situation is curb by the

House of Lords Act 1999.


Legislatures are often called parliaments under parliamentary systems while it’s called congress

under presidential system. The obvious differences from these two systems is presidential system

have a stricter separation of powers whereby the executive does not form or appointed by a

legislative body. Normally, heads of government cannot be selected and be dismissed by the

congress. They also may not make an early desolation as may be in parliamentary system.

Briefly, these are the characteristics of congressional system that have certain differentiation

between parliamentary systems in separation of powers. Whereby in parliamentary system it has

more kinds of checks and balances between those three organs. Therefore further discussion

would be in parliamentary systems as it is the key heart of democratic law making body.

Some people may say that in parliamentary system, legislation can easily be passing. This is

because the executive is dependent upon the direct or indirect support of the legislation.

A parliamentary system, or parliamentarism, is distinguished by the executive branch of

government being dependent on the direct or indirect support of the parliament, often expressed

through a vote of confidence. Hence, there is no clear-cut separation of powers between the

executive and legislative branches, leading to criticism from some that they lack checks and

balances found in a presidential republic. Parliamentarism is praised, relative to presidentialism,

for its flexibility and responsiveness to the public. It is faulted for its tendency to sometimes lead

to unstable governments, as in the German Weimar Republic and the French Fourth Republic.

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Parliamentary systems usually have a clear differentiation between the head of government and

the head of state, with the head of government being the prime minister or premier, and the head

of state often being an appointed figurehead with only minor or ceremonial powers. However,

some parliamentary systems also have an elected president with many reserve powers as the head

of state, providing some balance to these systems.

The term parliamentary system does not mean that a country is ruled by different parties in

coalition with each other. Such multi-party arrangements are usually the product of an electoral

system known as proportional representation. Parliamentary countries that use first past the post

voting usually have governments composed of one party. The United Kingdom, for instance, has

had only one coalition government since World War II. However, parliamentary systems of

continental Europe do use proportional representation, so, outside the Commonwealth of

Nations, it can be said that PR voting systems and parliamentarism go together.

Parliamentarism may also be heeded for governance in local governments. An example is the

city of Oslo, which has an executive council as a part of the parliamentary system.

Modes of Constituional Amendments

A written constitution that is immutable may become useless with the passing of time. Changing

social, political, and economic conditions will require changes to the constitution. Realizing this,

the Reid Commission recommended a method which ‘should be neither so difficult as to produce

frustration nor so easy to weaken seriously the safeguards which the constitution provides.

The Reid Commission in Reid Commission Report recommended that”

“Amendments should be made by Act of Parliament provided that an Act to amend the

constitution must be passed in each house by a majority of at least two thirds of the members

voting. In this matter the House of Representatives should not have power to overrule senate. We

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think that this is a sufficient safeguard for the states because the majority of the senate will

represent the States…”

The modes of Malaysian Constitutional Amendments are provided in Article 159 and Article

161E of Federal Constitution:

Amendments requiring a two-thirds majority

Most provisions of the constitution can be amended by a Bill enacted for that purpose and which

is supported by not less than two-thirds of the total number of members of each Dewan on its

second and third reading. This may be considered as the common method of amendment.

Amendments requiring a simple majority

Certain provisions of the constitution can be amended by an ordinary bill which is supported by a

simple majority of members present and voting in each Dewan. These provisions are set out in

Article 159(4). They cover some matters of considerable importance, for example:

• the admission of any state to the federation,

• the composition of the Dewan Negara and the rules concerning the election and the

retirement of its members

• restriction of freedom of movement within the federation, and of freedom of speech,

assembly, and association

• Creation of inferior courts, and the jurisdiction and powers of the High Courts and

inferior courts.

Amendments requiring the consent of the Majlis Raja-raja

the amendments of a number of provisions require, in addition to a two thirds majority, the

consent of the Majlis Raja-raja. These provisions, considered the most important in the

constitution, concern what are called ‘sensitive issues; the Majlis Raja-Raja itself, the precedence

of Rulers and Governors, the federal guarantee concerning the institution and succession of

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Rulers, the special position and privileges of the Malays and natives of Sabah and Sarawak,

legitimate interest of the other communities, and citizenship. The spectrum of provisions was

expanded in 1971 to include provisions concerning restrictions on freedom of speech in the

interests of internal security and public order, and any law passed there under prohibiting the

questioning (but not the implementation) of also requires the consent of the Majlis Raja-Raja, in

addition to the consent of the state itself.

The advantage of parliamentary democracy

Some believe that it is easier to pass legislation within a parliamentary system. This is because

the executive branch is dependent upon the direct or indirect support of the legislative branch

and often includes members of the legislature. Thus, this would amount to the executive (as the

majority party or coalition of parties in the legislature) possessing more votes in order to pass

legislation. In a presidential system, the executive is often chosen independently from the

legislature. If the executive and legislature in such a system include members entirely or

predominantly from different political parties, then stalemate can occur. Former US President

Bill Clinton often faced problems in this regard, since the Republicans controlled Congress for

much of his tenure. Presidents can also face problems from their own parties. Accordingly the

executive within a presidential system might not be able to properly implement his or her

platform/manifesto. Evidently, an executive in any system (be it parliamentary, presidential or

semi-presidential) is chiefly voted into office on the basis of his or her party's

platform/manifesto. It could be said then that the will of the people is more easily instituted

within a parliamentary system.

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In addition to quicker legislative action, Parliamentarianism has attractive features for nations

that are ethnically, racially, or ideologically divided. In a unipersonal presidential system, all

executive power is concentrated in the president. In a parliamentary system, with a collegial

executive, power is more divided. In the 1989 Lebanese Taif Agreement, in order to give

Muslims greater political power, Lebanon moved from a semi-presidential system with a strong

president to a system more structurally similar to a classical parliamentarianism. Iraq similarly

disdained a presidential system out of fears that such a system would be equivalent to Shiite

domination; Afghanistan's minorities refused to go along with a presidency as strong as the

Pashtuns desired.

It can also be argued that power is more evenly spread out in the power structure of

parliamentarianism. The premier seldom tends to have as high importance as a ruling president,

and there tends to be a higher focus on voting for a party and its political ideas than voting for an

actual person.

In The English Constitution, Walter Bagehot praised parliamentarianism for producing serious

debates, for allowing the change in power without an election, and for allowing elections at any

time. Bagehot considered the four-year election rule of the United States to be unnatural.

There is also a body of scholarship, associated with Juan Linz, Fred Riggs, Bruce Ackerman, and

Robert Dahl that claims that parliamentarianism is less prone to authoritarian collapse. These

scholars point out that since World War II, two-thirds of Third World countries establishing

parliamentary governments successfully made the transition to democracy. By contrast, no Third

World presidential system successfully made the transition to democracy without experiencing

coups and other constitutional breakdowns. As Bruce Ackerman says of the 30 countries to have

experimented with American checks and balances, "All of them, without exception, have

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succumbed to the nightmare [of breakdown] one time or another, often repeatedly." A recent

World Bank study found that parliamentary systems are associated with lower corruption.

The conclusion is:

1. Easier in making decision— the president is unable to dissolve government and order a

new election, which a British Prime Minister is well within his or her rights to do. In a

parliamentary system, the government may introduce legislation, but within a presidential

system the chief executive cannot, although he is permitted to veto legislation. There is

always, however, within a presidential system, a clear division between the legislative

body and the government.

2. Tendency towards democratic — some political scientists say that parliamentary are more

democratic rather than presidential system. According to some political scientists, such as

Fred Riggs, presidentialism has fallen into authoritarianism in nearly every country it has

been attempted. Parliamentary government is always democratic although a presidential

system is never parliamentary. Within the parliamentary system, both the legislature and

the chief executive must be in agreement on policy, and if they aren’t, they must work at

it until they are. A British prime minister is always a member of parliament but in a

presidential system, the chief executive of a presidency as well as all members of the

executive branch of government, except the vice president, cannot be members of


3. Separation of powers — Parliamentary systems usually have a clear differentiation

between the head of government and the head of state, with the head of government being

the prime minister or premier, and the head of state often being an elected (either

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popularly or through parliament) president or hereditary monarch. Though in

Parliamentary systems the prime minister and cabinet will exercise executive power on a

day-to-day basis, actual authority will usually be bestowed in the head of state, giving

them many codified or uncodified reserve powers, providing some balance to these


4. No Impediments to leadership change — the important difference between the two is that

while the leader of a parliamentary system can be forced to resign and call an election at

any time, presidents serve fixed terms and can't be removed, short of impeachment or

disability, until their terms are over. Also in a parliamentary system the parliament can

vote a governing body out of office, while the United States Congress, except in extreme

cases of impeachment, cannot.

Disadvantages of parliamentary democracy

One main criticism of many parliamentary systems is that the head of government is in almost all

cases not directly elected. In a presidential system, the president is usually chosen directly by the

electorate, or by a set of electors directly chosen by the people, separate from the legislature.

However, in a parliamentary system the prime minister is elected by the legislature, often under

the strong influence of the party leadership. Thus, a party's candidate for the head of government

is usually known before the election, possibly making the election as much about the person as

the party behind him or her.

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Another major criticism of the parliamentary system lies precisely in its purported advantage:

that there is no truly independent body to oppose and veto legislation passed by the parliament,

and therefore no substantial check on legislative power. Conversely, because of the lack of

inherent separation of powers, some believe that a parliamentary system can place too much

power in the executive entity, leading to the feeling that the legislature or judiciary have little

scope to administer checks or balances on the executive. However, most parliamentary systems

are bicameral, with an upper house designed to check the power of the lower (from which the

executive comes).

Although it is possible to have a powerful prime minister, as Britain has, or even a dominant

party system, as Japan has, parliamentary systems are also sometimes unstable. Critics point to

Israel, Italy, India, the French Fourth Republic, and Weimar Germany as examples of

parliamentary systems where unstable coalitions, demanding minority parties, votes of no

confidence, and threats of such votes, make or have made effective governance impossible.

Defenders of parliamentarianism say that parliamentary instability is the result of proportional

representation, political culture, and highly polarised electorates.

Former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi criticized the parliamentary system of Iraq, saying that

because of party-based voting "the vast majority of the electorate based their choices on sectarian

and ethnic affiliations, not on genuine political platforms."

Although Walter Bagehot praised parliamentarianism for allowing an election to take place at

any time, the lack of a definite election calendar can be abused. In some systems, such as the

British, a ruling party can schedule elections when it feels that it is likely to do well, and so avoid

elections at times of unpopularity. Thus, by wise timing of elections, in a parliamentary system a

party can extend its rule for longer than is feasible in a functioning presidential system. This

problem can be alleviated somewhat by setting fixed dates for parliamentary elections, as is the

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case in several of Australia's state parliaments. In other systems, such as the Dutch and the

Belgian, the ruling party or coalition has some flexibility in determining the election date.

Alexander Hamilton argued for elections at set intervals as a means of insulating the government

from the transient passions of the people, and thereby giving reason the advantage over passion

in the accountability of the government to the people.

Critics of parliamentary systems point out that people with significant popular support in the

community are prevented from becoming prime minister if they cannot get elected to parliament

since there is no option to "run for prime minister" like one can run for president under a

presidential system. Additionally, prime ministers may lose their positions solely because they

lose their seats in parliament, even though they may still be popular nationally. Supporters of

parliamentarianism can respond by saying that as members of parliament, prime ministers are

elected firstly to represent their electoral constituents and if they lose their support then

consequently they are no longer entitled to be prime minister. In parliamentary systems, the role

of the statesman who represents the country as a whole goes to the separate position of head of

state, which is generally non-executive and non-partisan. Promising politicians in parliamentary

systems likewise are normally preselected for safe seats - ones that are unlikely to be lost at the

next election - which allows them to focus instead on their political career

• A parliamentary system is that the head of government is in almost all cases not directly


• No truly independent body to oppose and veto legislation passed by the parliament, and

therefore no substantial check on legislative power.

• Parliamentary system can place too much power in the executive entity, leading to the

feeling that the legislature or judiciary has little scope to administer checks or balances on

the executive.

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• Parliamentary systems where unstable coalitions, demanding minority parties, votes of no

confidence, and threats of such votes, make or have made effective governance


• Parliamentary instability is the result of proportional representation, political culture, and

highly polarised electorates.

• A ruling party can schedule elections when it feels that it is likely to do well, and so avoid

elections at times of unpopularity.

• Parliamentary system a party can extend its rule for longer than is feasible in a

functioning presidential system.

• Parliamentary systems point out that people with significant popular support in the

community are prevented from becoming prime minister if they cannot get elected to

parliament since there is no option to "run for prime minister" like one can run for

president under a presidential system. Additionally, prime ministers may lose their

positions solely because they lose their seats in parliament, even though they may still be

popular nationally.

Why royal assent?

“A Ruler may reign but not Rule”

In republicanism, conceptually separate from democracy republicanism, included the key

principles of the rule by the consent of the government and sovereignty of the people. In effect

republicanism meant that the kings were not the real rulers, but rather the people.

Why do we need Royal Assent in democracy? Is it for upholding interests and rights? In some

parliamentary democracy countries, they have a constitutional monarch. Normally in amending a

law, the final process is a royal assent. Figuratively, the assent must be fixed to a bill before it
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can become a law. The question arise here is for what purpose is the royal assent if the bill is

already being given “assent” by the people. Who are move sovereign in democracy? The people

or the ruler? Luckily in modern days or in constitutional monarch exactly, the ruler is just a

symbol to uphold certain privileges or dignities of the citizen and their assent is just a part of a

process. By hook or by crook they have to give assent in any bill pass by a parliament. For

example is in article

Parliamentary democracy is said to have less tendency to fall into dictatorship or authoritarian

government. This is because parliamentary democracy system is to uphold the concept of “rule

of law”. In most parliamentary democracy, constitution is highest law of the land. No man can

make any law they please.

In authoritarian country, only single person has the power vested in his hand to control the whole

ratio. In Parliamentary democracy, representatives from each constituency are gathering in lower

house of parliament. They will voice out any problems faced by his or her people. But is it all

problems are voice out in the parliament? Or just a problems from this subordinate being voice

out? The MP’s in real world would just voice out his subordinate’s problem in order to maintain

his position and support. MP’s tend to adopt a “cronyism and nepotism” in their leadership.

Party System

MP’s and members of cabinet are bound to their party system. They have seniority and some

decision to be obeyed even though they are not agreeing with it. But most of MP’s may not

disagree because they have either step down or get out from the party. With this situation certain

ridiculous decision and law pass may not satisfy the citizen. People’s voice may not be hear and

certain people will suffer while MP’s are having privileges

Imagine if the compositions of parliament members are half opposition and half government

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What would happen? Is this situation give effects to a good decision making in the parliament or

just a barrier for the government to pass law, because certain Bill must be passed with two third

majorities in second and third reading. Therefore people’s interest may not be properly cared.

Firstly the government cannot implement most of their manifesto in the general election. For

example, conventionally Barisan Nasional has always retained their 2/3 majority in the

Parliament but for 12th General Election, they have lost support in parliament and failed to

maintain 2/3 majority for the seats.

MP’s are said to represent their constituent, but in reality MP’s are the representative of their

own political party. All their policies, opinions and ideologies are standardized by their party

system and they may not come across the decision of their leaders.

In modern political trend, a big support to a coalition party may bring benefit to their supporters

as a lot of agenda can be carried out with a majority support. But if one political party had

always maintain a two third majority, tendency of a corruption to happen is undeniable. As in

Lord Acton’s aphorism “absolute power corrupts absolutely”

Parliamentary sovereignty vs. Constitutional sovereignty

The Malaysian Federal Constitution although based on the British Westminster model, is closer

to the Indian Constitution in substance and form. The obvious the difference is where in UK,

Parliament is sovereign, not the Constitution.

Suffian L.P pointed out in Ah Thian v Government of Malaysia [1976] 2MLJ 112, 113:

“The doctrine of supremacy of Parliament does not apply in Malaysia. Here we have a

written constitution. The power of parliament and of State Legislatures in Malaysia is limited by

the Constitution, and they cannot make any law they pleased”

In contacts of Malaysian parliament, any law passed must follow the structure of the Federal

Constitution. In UK, the parliament is above the constitution, and they can make any law they

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please. Which doctrine of supremacy is more supporting the idea of democracy?

If we look upon the forming of Federal Constitution itself, it is based on Reid Commission report

and it is drafted based on Westminster model by five Judges of commonwealth countries.

Eventhough in the final process of the report, the Malay rulers and political leaders are consulted

but nobody from Malaya Federation involved in this drafting process.

Furthermore, this Federal Constitution is so called Rigid because of the amendments process

requires majority support and Parliament cannot make any law they pleased. Time has changed

and so happen to people’s interest. Anything in the FC may not be relevant in present or the

future times, so it needs to be changed. In democracy, people are the highest maker of the law

and in parliamentary democracy they have Legislature to pass and discuss the law they want.

So to what extent a parliament in the Doctrine of Constitutional Supremacy can exercise their

democratic power?

In reality, our Federal Constitution has been repealed a lot of times and some believe that

Constitutional Supremacy does not apply in reality, in fact Parliamentary Supremacy is

maintained through the ease which constitutional amendments have been achieved since

independence (because the government in power has maintained a two-thirds majority in both

Houses of Parliament) and the judicial attitude in the interpretation of the constitution.

Furthermore, parliament may pass law, provided in Article 149 and Article 150 of Federal

Constitution regarding the subversion and emergency declaration. In emergency the power will

be conferred to the Yang Dipertuan Agong. The Article 149 clearly permits the act of parliament

to retain someone under the Internal Secutiy Act 1960. Section 73(1) Internal Security Act 1960:

"Any police officer may without warrant arrest and detain pending enquiries any person in

respect of whom he has reason to believe that there are grounds which would justify his

detention under section 8; and that he has acted or is about to act or is likely to act in any

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manner prejudicial to the security of Malaysia or any part thereof or to maintenance of essential

services therein or to the economic life thereof."

Section 8(1) of the ISA provides that ‘(i)f the minister is satisfied that the detention of any

person is necessary …’ then s/he may issue an order for his/her detention. The three grounds

given in Section 8(1) upon which the order may be based is where a person has acted in any

manner prejudicial to the:

a) security of Malaysia or part thereof; or

b) maintenance of essential services; or

c) economic life.

ISA has been very controversial in Malaysian political scenario. But in democracy view, ISA

does not consult the consent of people in detaining someone. The detainee may voice out

something for the rights and liberties of people. Mainly, the detainees came from opposition

political party. In fact our former deputy Prime Minister was convicted in many allegation such

as sodomy, corruption and etc.

Majority vs Minority

Austin Ranney defines democracy as “ a form of government organized in accordance with the

principle of popular sovereignty, political equality, popular consultation, and majority rule”

Therefore democarcy is characterized by four features”

• The ultimate power to make political decisions is vested in all people

• Each adult citizen has the same opportunityas every adult citizen to participate in the

decision making-process. This means “one person-one vote” and indeed, the freedom to

choose from alternatives.

• Public policies are made only after ascertaining the wishes of the peole.

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• All political decisions must be made according to the wishes of the majority

Each nation of the world consist of a majority races, colours and religion and includes some

minorities which normally came from aboriginal tribe and people who migrated from another

part of the world from a long time ago. Parliament plays an important role to ensure that majority

interest are taken care. But what about the minority? In some country, monorities are neglected

in areas like economy, education and priviliges. Does that mean a minority is not right? Majority

does not always carry the rightful decision. They may swing to a wrong decision and minority

who oppose has less power in the parliament. Parliament needs to have certain limittation and

provision regarding the minorities to ensure their safeguards. That is why in most part of the

world, ethnic demolitions are widely done by the majority. For example in Iraq, Saddam Hussein

had killed many Qurdish.

Arrend Lijpart, Robert Dahl and others have argued persuasively that democracy depends very

much upon the beliefs of the political leaders about the legitimacy and necessity of a democratic

government. It would seem impossible to maintain democracy if those active in politics are not

committed to democratic values and ideals. MP’s in Parliament have to play their card well in

Parliament to uphold the democratic value in their law making process.