Bersih repeats demands for equal constituency funds, recall election

Electoral watchdog Bersih has repeated its call for constituency development funds (CDF) to be given equally to all MPs irrespective of their support for or against the government of the day.

“The Madani government led by Anwar Ibrahim ought to do better than previous governments who withheld CDF allocation from opposition and independent MPs.

“Malaysia should institutionalise CDF allocation by law to give equal allocation so that it is no longer up to the discretion of the PM of the day and should be run on its own or via an elected local government,” said Bersih in a statement today.

In recent days, four Bersatu MPs – Suhaili Abdul Rahman (Labuan), Iskandar Dzulkarnain Abdul Khalid (Kuala Kangsar), Mohd Azizi Abu Naim (Gua Musang), and Zahari Kechik (Jeli) – have declared their support for Anwar’s government.

The reason cited for the switching of party loyalties was the guarantee of receiving federal funds for the welfare of their constituencies.

Suhaili has since been suspended by the party for six years, while Iskandar received a four-year suspension and the two others have been referred to Bersatu’s disciplinary committee.

Anti-hopping law

According to Bersih, the crux of the problem is twofold: the inefficacy of the existing anti-hopping law and the weaponisation of CDF as a bargaining chip.

It called for a bipartisan effort to tighten the anti-hopping law to cover existing loopholes while noting that this will likely 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.

“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,” it said.

Bersih again suggested that Malaysia ought to consider introducing proportional representation either fully or partially as a new (or mixed) electoral system.

In a proportional representation system, the rakyat votes for a party and seats are allotted to parties according to their vote share, so it is clear that the seat belongs to the party, not individual MPs.

(First published by Malaysiakini on 15 November 2023: