It is debatable whether an MP joining another party after being sacked from his original party should keep his seat.
The much anticipated anti-hopping bill was finally tabled in the Dewan Rakyat on Monday, with clearer definitions for what situations of party-hopping that necessitate a re-election.
We believe the Constitution (Amendment) (No. 3) Bill 2022 should be able to deter potential party-hoppers and prevent a handful of irresponsible elected representatives from sabotaging a democratically elected government, and prevent them from “blackmailing” government policies threatening to jump ship, when the numbers of MPs on two rival political camps are getting very close.
The country has suffered tremendous political turmoil over the past four years largely due to elected reps jumping ship, giving rise to vicious struggle for the priced PM office and endless political tussles, much to the disgust of ordinary rakyat.
The parliamentary special select committee (PSSC) tasked with the mission of preventing elected reps from party-hopping this time has decided to amend the Federal Constitution directly instead of drawing up a new law to ban elected reps from jumping ship.
As for the state level, the select committee has also proposed to repeal Article 48(6) of the Federal Constitution and amend the Eighth Schedule of the Federal Constitution to allow state legislative assemblies to amend their respective state constitutions to bar state assemblymen from changing parties.
The Parliament has clearly defined “party-hopping”, including varying circumstances under which an elected rep could lose its representation.
A by-election will be held when a representative from a party or an independent candidate joins another party after being elected.
Past experiences show that elected reps quit their own parties to join a ruling party in order to secure a government post, and indeed we have quite a good number of such people in our current cabinet.
As for independent reps leaning towards a particular party, so far the impact has been minimal given the fact we only have three independent reps among 222 MPs in our Parliament today.
Meanwhile, under the following circumstances an elected rep is not considered jumping ship: the MP’s party is dissolved or suspended, the MP is appointed the Speaker, and the MP is sacked by his party, which is a wise decision as it will prevent an MP sacked by the party because of dissident views from losing the seat while showing respect for the mandate given by the electorate to the rep.
The rep will keep his seat whether he joins another party or forms a new one.
Elected reps can keep their seats if the party forges a new alliance with other parties, including when these parties come together to form a new ruling coalition, or when a party is dissolved or its registration suspended by the RoS.
When a party is dissolved or suspended, its elected reps can freely join any other party and will not be seen as party-hopping.
It is nevertheless debatable whether an MP joining another party after being sacked from his original party should keep his seat. This will encourage the MP planning to jump ship to blatantly defy the party leader’s directive so that he gets sacked and can freely join a new party without having to worry about giving up his seat.