Instead of a Unity Government, why not Power-sharing through Parliament?

BERSIH calls upon all parties to consider power-sharing through parliament as the way to resolve the government formation deadlock now, instead of the proposed Unity Government.


Unity Government, or more accurately a Grand Coalition Government, will include all main parties, namely PH, PN and the Borneo parties.

While this would be inclusive, it has three inherent flaws.


Firstly, the administration would be bloated to include representatives from all parties. This will frustrate Malaysians who want to see a slimmer administration with less incompetent politicians drawing big salaries.


Secondly, there may be little check and balance in Parliament when almost everyone may be a government backbencher and no one or very few in opposition.


Thirdly, given the deep cleavage, the grand coalition may not have the coherence to pursue clear goals. Instead of working together, it risks having government parties and ministers contradicting or criticising each other, as what we have seen in the 32 months post-Sheraton Move.


In lieu of a grand coalition government, BERSIH proposes a multipurpose arrangement of power-sharing to meet the goals of representation, competition and accountability.


Our proposals are as below:


  • Either the PH or PN would lead the government while the other would lead the shadow cabinet with commensurate salary, resources and information access for its shadow ministers


  • The smaller blocs and parties have three options in Parliament:


  1. Junior partner in coalition government
  2. Opposition supporting the government on a Confidence and Supply Agreement (CSA) basis
  3. Full opposition


  • The coalition – PH or PN – that can assemble a majority by getting BN or the Borneo parties to be its junior partner or CSA partner will form the government.


  • Regardless whether it is a majority coalition government or a minority government backed on a CSA, such government fulfils the need of Article 43(2)(a) of the Federal Constitution


  • The entire government frontbench cannot exceed 25% of the Dewan Rakyat, namely 55 ministers and deputy ministers in total and about 27 ministries at the maximum.


  • Every ministry will be scrutinized by only a shadow minister who would be paid half the ministerial salary and provided policy staff but no other perks.


  • For each ministry, there will also be a parliamentary select committee, filled by both government and opposition backbenchers, with its own policy staff


  • The chair and deputy chair of each parliamentary select committee would be paid a fraction of ministerial salary, but less than what received by a shadow minister.


  • Every MP, except Speaker, Deputy Speakers, Ministers, Deputy Ministers, Shadow Ministers will get to sit in at least one parliamentary select committee


  • In total, up to five MPs would be tasked to care for every ministry: minister and deputy minister in the administration, shadow minister in the Opposition frontbench, and the chair and deputy chair sitting on the parliamentary committee


  • If the government has up to 27 ministries, then 135 MPs would be involved, but they would be placed to check on each other: 54 in government, 27 in shadow cabinet, and 54 in multi-partisan parliamentary committees.


We urge all quarters including the Conference of Rulers, political parties, academia, civil society groups and, the business and professional sectors to consider this proposal instead of a grand coalition government which may bring unintended consequences.


Statement issued by:

The Steering Committee of BERSIH