Time to reconsider anti-hopping law

By Doreenn Leong

In view of the current political turmoil, it is timelier now more than ever to revisit the need to enact an anti-hopping law to stop Members of Parliament from switching parties. This move will instil some form of certainty to the public as lawmakers will be prevented from jeopardising the nation’s political stability.

As it is, Malaysians are inundated with political manoeuvrings as politicians switched allegiances to serve their own purposes.

Recently, a group of 11 PKR MPs who left the party to form an independent block in parliament, are set to join PPBM (Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia), in what could boost the support for interim Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

The country is now facing political uncertainties following the abrupt resignation of Mahathir on Feb 24.

Apart from Datuk Seri Mohamed Azmin Ali, who was formerly PKR vice president, the 10 others are Zuraida Kamaruddin, Saifuddin Abdullah, Baru Bian, Kamarudin Jaffar, Mansor Othman, Rashid Hasnon, Ali Biju, Willie Mongin and Jonathan Yasin.

Wouldn’t it be better if the elected representative decides to resign from the party, he or she recontest under the new political party? Just allow the people to decide. But this is not possible currently as an elected representative who resigns from the seat is disqualified from contesting in the election for five years.

Penang is the only state in the country where its state assembly lawmakers must vacate their seats should they switch sides. This effectively eliminates the possibility of floor-crossing.

Floor-crossing is not a new thing. It has only when the Perak Crisis took place about 10 years ago that floor-crossing has become a taboo. The crisis happened after an elected government collapsed for the first time in Malaysia.

It was triggered by the defection of three Pakatan Rakyat lawmakers, who quit their respective parties and pledged their allegiance to Barisan Nasional before the late Perak ruler Sultan Azlan Shah.

Similarly, in Sabah, crisis broke out after a BN-led government was installed on May 10, 2018 only to collapse a day later due to defections. Again, the court affirmed that a new government can be installed through floor-crossing.

With the recent string of defections from BN to Bersatu and Warisan, this has raised questions on the need to institute laws to discourage defections by lawmakers.

However, it may be impossible to pass an anti-hopping law. This is because there is a 1992 decision of the then Supreme Court that may pose a problem for such a piece of legislation.

The case involved Kelantan state assemblyman Nordin Salleh who switched from PAS to Umno. At that time, PAS had its own anti-hopping rule. The case went to court and the apex court then ruled that such a rule was void as it violated freedom of association under Article 10 (1)(c) of the Federal Constitution.

Since the Nordin Salleh decision was made nearly 30 years ago, wouldn’t it be timely for the Federal Court to revisit its decision?