Constitution of Malaysia

Status: National monarchy

Legislature: Parliament of Malaysia

Independence: 31 August 1957

Malaysia is a parliamentary democracy with a federal constitutional monarch, the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, as head of state. This monarch is chosen for a five-year term from among their own number by the nine hereditary rulers of Peninsular Malaysia. These rulers also elect a Timbalan (deputy) di-Pertuan Agong. The nine hereditary states are Perlis (ruled by the Raja), Negeri Sembilan (ruled by the Yang di-Pertuan Besar) and Kedah, Perak, Johor, Selangor, Pahang, Terengganu and Kelantan (ruled by Sultans). The head of state in the four states that do not have hereditary rulers – Melaka, Pulau Pinang, Sabah and Sarawak – is the Yang di-Pertuan Negeri, or governor, and is appointed by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong for a four-year term.

The federal parliament consists of two houses. The upper house, Dewan Negara (council of the nation or Senate), has 70 members, of whom 44 are appointed by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong and 26 are elected by the state legislatures (two each). The lower house, Dewan Rakyat (council of the people, more usually called House of Representatives), has 222 members who are directly elected by universal suffrage. The maximum life of the House of Representatives is five years; members of the Senate hold office for six years. The Yang di-Pertuan Agong appoints the prime minister and, on the prime minister’s advice, the cabinet.

Bills must be passed by both houses and assented to by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong. A bill may originate in either house, with the exception of a money bill, which may not be introduced in the Senate. The Senate has the power to hold up for one year a bill which is not a money bill and which has been passed by the Dewan Rakyat. Each house regulates its own procedure and has control over its own proceedings, the validity of which may not be questioned in any court. A two-thirds majority of both houses is required before the constitution can be changed.