The Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections (BERSIH) views with concern the remarks of the Law Minister Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar that there is still no consensus on the term “anti-hopping” as each political party may have their own definition of what it means and what it covers. He said this on a segment on Astro Agenda’s Stabilising Malaysia’s Democracy on 15 February 2022.
We are also disappointed that a consultation meeting with CSOs called by the Law Minister for today 17 February has been postponed due to the high number of Covid-19 cases. BERSIH and other CSOs were looking forward to engaging with the Minister’s department and the Attorney-General Chambers (AGC) over a whole range of reform proposals including the draft for the Anti-Hopping Law (AHL). BERSIH hopes that the remark of Wan Junaidi and the postponement of the consultation meeting is not a signal that the Government is having second thoughts about pushing through some important reforms before GE15.
The passing of a law to prevent or deter party-hopping as soon as possible is one of the key terms of the Memorandum of Understanding for Transformation and Political Stability (MOU) signed between the Ismail Sabri government and Pakatan Harapan (PH) on 13 September 2021. The commitment of the Government and the largest opposition bloc in parliament to implement the Anti-Hopping Law (AHL), UNDI18, Prime Ministerial two-term limit, parliamentary reform and a range of other reforms are important not only to stabilise politics but also to strengthen our democracy.
BERSIH acknowledges that the issue of party-hopping is a complex one with many definitions, legal, intra-party and electoral considerations, and to find a perfect solution is near impossible. But we are also of the view that in the wake of the Sheraton Move, where party-hopping caused the collapse of the Federal government twice and directly or indirectly triggered the change of eight state governments in the last two years, the enactment of a law to prevent party-hopping in Malaysia is an absolute necessity to restore political stability and even more important than that, the confidence of the Malaysian public in our democracy.
In our opinion, as its most basic, the following would be considered as party-hopping for the AHL:
(1) An elected representative leaving his/her party to join another party or going independent.
(2) An independent representative joining a political party.
(3) An elected representative resigning on his/her own volition from the party and/or seat.
(4) An elected representative sacked by his/her party.
If any of the above took place, their seat would be declared vacant automatically and a by-election called in an traditional AHL. BERSIH’s preference is an Anti-hopping Recall Law (AHRL) which will not automatically vacate the party-hopper’s seat but provides a recall procedure for the party-hopper’s constituents to vacate the seat. This would avoid the traditional AHL’s three fundamental pitfalls due to its rigidity: first, a party leader may eliminate his/her intra-party rivals by sacking them from the party and effectively them from the Parliament; second, such power can make MPs blind followers of their party leaders, and the Parliament a rubber stamp to any Prime Minister who commands a single-bloc majority government; third, it would freeze party system by preventing emergence of new parties due to genuine political divide in existing parties, such as Amanah, Bersatu and Warisan in 2015-6.
Nonetheless, we will support the enactment of the proposed AHL but hope that the following concerns are addressed.
(1) Article 48(6) where a representative who resigned his/her seat is barred from contesting for 5 years, be repealed. This would allow a representative to resign as a matter of principle from his/her party and contest for the same seat to get a fresh mandate from his/her voters. If this Article is not repealed, the representative would have to face the indignity of being sacked before being allowed to recontest.
(2) The States should have the freedom to enact their own AHL, whether the traditional AHL, the AHRL proposed by Bersih and MP of Pengerang Datuk Seri Azalina Said Othman, or any other design. To this end, the amendment to Article 10 to allow restriction on freedom of association over party-hopping must include “State Constitutions” alongside “the Federal Constitution”. At the same time, the Eighth Schedule of the Federal Constitution should not be amended to force a carbon copy of the Federal Parliament’s traditional AHL onto the States.
BERSIH calls on the Law Minister and the government of PM Ismail Sabri Yaakob to table the proposed Anti-Hopping Law at this coming Parliament sitting on 28 February and ensure that it becomes law after taking into consideration the inputs of MPs, CSOs and the public.
The passage of the AHL would restore public confidence in our electoral system and give voters a reason to come out and vote in GE15.
Statement issued by:
The Steering Committee of BERSIH