Over the past year, Malaysia's royal households have started to flex their muscles, and in the process, scored rare successes in pushing their demands with the government on issues ranging from the appointment of judges to the selection of chief ministers after the country's general election in early March.
Now, analysts and constitutional lawyers believe that the country's nine Malay sultans, who make up the Conference of Rulers, could determine the outcome of Malaysia's deepening political crisis, which has stoked murmurings of a possible snap election and also the possibility that a state of emergency could be declared.
That is because the limited powers the country's rulers enjoy under the Constitution will determine the cause of action Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi's government can take to hold on to power, lawyers and analysts say.
Consider the following:
- Malaysia's King must give his consent should the government decide to dissolve Parliament and hold fresh elections to stave off any attempt by the opposition to form the government.
Should Malaysia's political situation worsen to the point that the government decides to declare a state of emergency, the King must sign off on the plan.
Above all, the King is the commander-in-chief of the country's armed forces. In a situation of a military takeover, he will become the most powerful person in Malaysia.
'For the first time since independence, the country's Malay rulers are being pressed to exercise powers that they previously never had to,' said Mr Tommy Thomas, one of Malaysia's most senior constitutional lawyers.
All of this is because of Malaysia's unstable politics.
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