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4:15pm 04/04/2022
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Proper party-hopping definition essential
By:Sin Chew Daily

Problems will arise when party leadership is infinitely empowered to resort to expulsion to write off a disobedient rep’s rightful status as elected rep.

Party-hopping is no more a novelty in Malaysian politics. In fact, it has become so commonplace nowadays that even though such practices are almost certainly heavily censured, the government doesn’t seem to have made any serious effort in stemming it out.

Due to frequent party-hopping in more recent years, forcing undemocratic changes to federal and state administrations against public mandates and impacting efficiency in governance, there have been calls to uproot such irresponsible acts through legislation.

Defections by elected reps in more recent years have indeed wreaked tremendous havoc on the integrity of democratic politics, even to an extent to bring down democratically elected governments.

Voters have made their decisions in the elections on who should rule this country on their behalf over the next five years, but by means of defecting to rival parties, some of these elected reps have wickedly defied such decisions.

Malaysians’ faith in democratic politics will continue to wither until and unless this problem is addressed once and for all.

Since 2018 there have been 39 party-hopping MPs in Malaysian parliament, culminating in a change of three different prime ministers since the last election and undermining political stability. Anti-hopping bill is absolutely necessary to shore up democracy and ensure political stability.

Now that lawmakers on both sides of the divide have reached a consensus on legislating and enacting an anti-hopping law, the government is set to table the bill in a special parliamentary sitting on April 11, which is most affirmatively a great thing for the country and her people, so that we won’t see any more irresponsible and selfish reps hijack the people’s mandate to undemocratically topple an elected government.

While this marks an important first step in the country’s effort to weed out unscrupulous party-hopping practices, the actual content of the bill, in particular the definition for party-hopping, has to be given serious and careful thought.

Based on the anti-hopping bill drafted by the government, the following three conditions could be perceived as party-hopping where the seat must be vacated and a by-election called: (1) when an elected rep quits his/her party after winning the election to join another party or be an independent; (2) if he/she is expelled by his/her party; and (3) an independent candidate joining a party after winning the election.

While the general population is largely supportive of the anti-hopping bill, the definition of party-hopping as laid out in the bill is nevertheless controversial, especially the second condition above in which an elected rep is considered defecting if he/she is expelled by the party.

This will give the leaders of political parties excessive powers to negate the voters’ choice of candidate.

Under such circumstances, elected reps are forced to conform to their parties’ (or leadership’s) decisions to avoid being sacked and losing their seats.

How should these reps act in the event their parties’ decisions are against the will of the people? Should they fulfill their obligations to the electorate or just do as instructed by the party leadership? How many will actually risk their political careers to go against their party leaders?

Problems will arise when party leadership is infinitely empowered to resort to expulsion to write off a disobedient rep’s rightful status as elected rep.

It has become a public consensus that the issue of party-hopping must be resolved, but in so doing, all possible consequences ought to be thoughtfully considered lest we have new problems after settling the old ones.

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