Speaker Azhar Harun temporarily vacated his seat in the Dewan Rakyat today, leaving former deputy speaker Azalina Othman Said to chair the ongoing sitting.
Such a move is allowed under Standing Order 7(3) which states that the speaker may at any time during a sitting ask a member to take the chair temporarily without formal communication to the house.
“Such member shall be invested with all the powers of Tuan Yang di-Pertua, until Tuan Yang di-Pertua returns,” it reads.
When questioned by Mohamad Sabu (PH-Kota Raja), she jokingly compared her situation to mut’ah, the term used for contract marriage under Shia Islam.
When contacted, Azhar said the move was allowed to enable him to attend to other matters.
On why his deputy Mohd Rashid Hasnon was not asked to take over, Azhar said Rashid had already chaired earlier.
He added that he would return to chair the sitting later today.
Azalina, the Pengerang MP, resigned as one of the two deputy speakers on Aug 23, days after she joined about a dozen MPs aligned with former prime minister Najib Razak and Umno president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi in withdrawing their support for the Perikatan Nasional administration led then by Muhyiddin Yassin.
She cited among others a conflict of roles and responsibilities as a member of the Umno Supreme Council and an MP in the ruling coalition.
She also called for the post of speaker and deputy speaker to be filled by those who are impartial and who hold no political posts.
Her replacement was expected to have been appointed yesterday. However, the election was postponed to the next sitting in October to allow an amendment the Federal Constitution to increase the number of deputy speakers from two currently to three.
Two names have been mentioned for nomination: Pontian MP Ahmad Maslan, the candidate from the government bloc, and Teluk Intan MP Nga Kor Ming, the Pakatan Harapan candidate.