Sin Chew Daily
Before Muhyiddin Yassin stepped down as prime minister and before Ismail Sabri took over, they both mentioned about constitutional amendment and legislation to enact the anti-hopping law.
Indeed, given the country’s prevailing corrupted political climate, enacting anti-hopping and recall election laws must be carried out sooner rather than later, or the country’s political atmosphere will remain perennially chaotic, sacrificing the last bit of dignity for democratic politics.
All the country’s political commotion over the past three years could be wholly blamed on the unscrupulous party-hopping phenomenon. The new government which we elected in 2018 after six decades of single-party administrations was bulldozed by a dozen of defecting elected representatives, taking us back to where we had started.
In view of this, the amendment to the Federal Constitution Article 10 1(c) “all citizens have the right to form associations”, its adoption in Dewan Rakyat and subsequent legislation, will be yet another major mission awaiting Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob, besides battling the coronavirus.
The enactment of the anti-hopping and recall election laws is highly anticipated by average Malaysians. Owing to the near monopoly by a single political alliance and the ensuing vested interest in the past so many decades, adopting these two bills was a very tall order indeed.
But with the two major rival camps now of comparable strengths in Parliament, the government could change any time because of the defection of a couple of disgruntled reps. Either of the two camps could be blackmailed by a couple of unscrupulous politicians any time, and this whole thing can happen over and again, with no end in sight.
Thanks to consensus from the opposing camps now, it is imperative that the Constitution be amended, the bills tabled, passed and made into laws within the shortest time possible.
Both the anti-hopping law and recall election can coexist peacefully in the absence of any conflict or contradiction.
The connotation of an anti-hopping law is to prevent any elected representative from hopping to a rival party due to one reason or another. Once an MP defects to a rival party, his or her seat must be vacated immediately and a by-election held thereafter, so that the voters can pick a new lawmaker to represent them. This should serve to deter anyone who plans to jump ship and betray the voters’ mandate either for personal gains or otherwise.
Recall election, meanwhile, is targeting elected representatives who have let their electorate down by the acts of power abuse, breach of trust, corruption, cheating or the issuance of discriminatory remarks, among others, even if they have yet to be implicated in a court. Voters in a constituency can initiate the necessary proceedings leading to the removal of such representatives.
As for those stripped of their party membership due to “political differences”, their eligibility as elected reps will also be determined by the voters in their constituencies. This will effectively prevent manipulation by the party’s leadership because of divergent political beliefs.
Under Article 48 of the Federal Constitution, there are seven conditions an elected rep can be disqualified, but nothing about party-hopping or removal by the voters. As such, amendment of the Constitution must precede all others.
For healthy democratic politics, it is of greatest urgency that we enact new laws to check the politicians voted by the people to represent them. This should form the bedrock to preserve our democratic spirit.