The Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections (Bersih) demands that the government commit to tabling a new and stronger “anti-hopping” law [to curb political defections] in the first week of the July parliamentary session.
To avoid further delay, the bill for an anti-hopping recall law tabled by Pengerang MP Azalina Othman Said should be adopted for consultation and fine-tuning immediately.
Bersih registers its strongest disappointment with the latest news that the federal cabinet has made a U-turn on tabling the anti-hopping law scheduled for Monday, 11 April. Law Minister Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar was reported to have said that the special parliament session will proceed to pass a constitutional amendment that would facilitate the introduction of an anti-hopping bill in the future.
Meanwhile, Wan Junaidi also said that the current anti-hopping bill has been sent back for more studies to be conducted on the definition of “party hopping”.
While we are of the view that an anti-hopping law must be passed without delay, Bersih has also consistently voiced our reservations about the anti-hopping law in its current form, as reported in various media.
The two handicaps of the anti-hopping law are, firstly, it cannot prevent coalition hopping and will not be effective in stemming such political instability and second, party leaders may abuse the anti-hopping law’s power by sacking dissident or rival elected representatives within their parties in order to vacate their seats.
With the delay to further study the anti-hopping law, we urge the signatories of the Memorandum of Understanding – the Ismail Sabri Yaakob government and Pakatan Harapan – to adopt an anti-hopping recall law, which has been formulated by Bersih and advanced for federal adoption by Azalina.
In this design, the seat of any elected representative can be vacated – on the three grounds of party-hopping covered by the anti-hopping law – MPs leaving or getting expelled by a party, and independent MPs joining a party – as well as coalition-hopping by parties, which is not covered by anti-hopping law – if enough voters put their signatures to support a recall petition within 21 days. The signature threshold Bersih recommends is 40% or half of the turnout rate in the last election.
By leaving the decision to voters, an anti-hopping recall law can overcome the two handicaps in the current proposal for an anti-hopping law.
In recognition that different parties and MPs in the government may have different views on the anti-hopping law or anti-hopping recall law, we urge Prime Minister Ismail Sabri to allow all government MPs to vote by conscience when the bill is eventually presented. We believe that more than two-thirds of MPs would support the passing of any anti-hopping mechanism to restore political stability and sanity.
States must be given the freedom to explore and choose their preferred anti-hopping mechanism, which may be any variant of an anti-hopping law or anti-hopping recall law.
To enable state-level anti-hopping laws, an amendment to Article 10 to by-pass the 1992 Supreme Court verdict on Noordin Salleh that ruled the anti-hopping law unconstitutional should include the words “state constitutions” and have this effect: “Restrictions on the right to form associations conferred by paragraph (c) of Clause (1) relating to political party may be imposed by this Constitution and state constitutions.”
Bersih believes that when the anti-hopping recall law bill is tabled in July, MPs or parties that refuse to support the bill or scheme to delay it must be prepared to face the wrath of voters who have to suffer years of political instability and see their votes betrayed by party-hoppers. – Bersih