The Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections (BERSIH) views with trepidation the current developments in which at least four Members of Parliament (MP) from Perikatan Nasional have publicly stated the constituency development funds (CDF) is a primary reason why they declared their support for Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim, against the wishes of their party.
Bersih’s position, echoed by various civil society groups, is that CDF must be given equally to all MPs irrespective of their support for or against the government of the day. The Madani Government led by PMX ought to do better than previous governments who withheld CDF allocation from opposition and independent MPs.
The crux of the problem today is twofold: the inefficacy of the existing anti-hopping law (AHL) and the weaponization of CDF as a bargaining chip.
Bersih believes there are three options to manage party hopping:
Firstly, there can be a bipartisan effort to tighten the anti-hopping law to cover existing loopholes, but this will erode individual MPs’ autonomy to vote according to their conscience and instead have to toe the party line or be sacked and lose their seats.
Secondly, Bersih’s preferred solution is that the government should consider implementing a recall election to apply to those who switch allegiance without leaving their parties. This mechanism is used in countries like Taiwan and the United States where recall election returns the mandate to the Rakyat to declare whether or not a seat should be vacated after an elected representative switched allegiance for/against a Prime Minister. Unlike current anti-hopping laws at federal or state level which give either the Speaker or the State Assembly the power to determine seat vacancy, recall election empowers a constituency’s voters to initiate a petition to either recall or keep their representatives – albeit this comes with some financial implications.
Thirdly, Malaysia ought to consider introducing proportional representation either fully or partially as a new (or mixed) electoral system. In PR system, the Rakyat votes for a party and seats are allotted to parties according to their vote share, so it is clear once and for all that the seat belongs to the party, not individual MPs.
On CDF, Bersih recommends the following two steps:
First, institutionalize CDF allocation by law to give equal allocation so that it is no longer up to the discretion (budi bicara) of the PM of the day. Bersih supports the call by The Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (IDEAS) which has urged the government to codify CDF allocation to stabilise politics in Malaysia as well as to level the playing field.
Second, in the long term, CDF should be run on its own or via an elected local government as constituency development is not supposed to be an MP’s job, which should be to focus on national issues and debate legislations and major policies by the government of the day.
The Steering Committee of BERSIH