Unnecessary elections a waste of public funds

A law to curb defections would infuse a sense of respectability in our MPs as there would be no place for political ‘frogs’

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Photo credit: hazuism.blogspot.com

As the next general election approaches, many Malaysians will now speculate on the likely dates of the polls, which must be held by 2023.

More importantly, we should amend the Federal Constitution to avoid unnecessary elections, and legislate a law to curb party defections.

Politics aside, consider the waste of public funds and the health risks involved in holding elections that could have been avoided.

The millions spent in the unjustified Sabah state election last year could have been used to ease the people’s suffering in so many ways. The wasted money could have been used to develop infrastructure and ease poverty in the state.  

The Malacca state election could cost the public a whopping RM42m. Imagine putting this money to better use. The government could have used the funds to fight climate change by giving every Malaysian a tree to plant. The additional green cover could have absorbed a sizeable chunk of our CO2 emissions.

The financial resources squandered on unwarranted elections over the years could have used to improve healthcare, education and infrastructure.

Did those responsible for bringing down the Sabah and Malacca state governments even think about the public funds wasted because of their actions? Did they think of avoiding new elections amid a pandemic?  

No, the people’s welfare took a back seat, thanks to these politicians.

Why can’t the Sarawak state election be held together with the coming general election and the other state elections? Much money could be saved if Sarawak held its state election at the same time as the next general election, like all the other states.

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In July 2019, Parliament passed a bill reducing the minimum voting age from 21 to 18. Of the 222 MPs, 211 supported the amendments to the Federal Constitution for this purpose.

Hopefully, in the next general election, Malaysians will vote in fresh faces, especially younger candidates concerned about the waste of public funds, corruption, mismanagement, climate change and food security. These younger candidates will be more concerned about these problems as they represent the future of the country.

Besides financial waste, MPs and officials could put their time to more productive use instead of wasting it on unnecessary elections.

MPs on both sides of the political divide should support amendments to the Constitution to prevent unnecessary elections due to the death, resignation or conviction of an MP or state assembly member.

The incumbent party that held the vacant seat should be allowed to nominate a successor to fill the seat until the next general election. If the vacant seat had been held by an independent candidate, then the local council could step in to administer the constituency.

Besides amending the Federal Constitution, Parliament urgently needs to enact a law to curb party defections. Such a law would restore the dignity and integrity of our august House and state assemblies. The law would also eliminate the temptation to resort to money politics.

Such a law would at least inject some morality into politics. It is high time we look at politics as an honourable profession, rather than a conduit for personal gain at the expense of the people.

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Switching parties is not only immoral and unprofessional, it can also spark political instability in the country. Most MPs are voted into office based on their party’s appeal to the voters rather than their individual credentials.

These MPs or state assembly members must thus serve and stand by the same party throughout the full parliamentary or state assembly term. They should not simply jump ship for flimsy, inexcusable reasons. If they intend to leave the party, they can do it and join another party once the House is dissolved. They can then stand under a new party at the next election.

A law to curb defections would infuse a sense of respectability in our MPs as there would be no place for political ‘frogs’ (defectors).

We ordinary folks refer to our MPs and state assemblymen as Yang Berhormat (the honourable). Would it be morally right for their constituents to still refer to them by this respectable term after they switch allegiances?

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Benedict Lopez was director of the Malaysian Investment Development Authority in Stockholm and economics counsellor at the Malaysian embassy there in 2010-2014. He covered all five Nordic countries in the course of his work. A pragmatic optimist and now an Aliran member, he believes Malaysia can provide its people with the same benefits and privileges found in the Nordic countries - not a far-fetched dream but one that he hopes will be realised in his lifetime
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