Laws to stop party-hopping? Govt will study it in future if necessary, says minister

A general view of the Perdana Putra building which houses the Prime Minister’s Office on the fifth floor, in Putrajaya February 25, 2020. — Bernama pic
A general view of the Perdana Putra building which houses the Prime Minister’s Office on the fifth floor, in Putrajaya February 25, 2020. — Bernama pic

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KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 24 — The government currently does not see a need to create new laws to prevent Malaysia’s elected lawmakers from hopping to another political party after being voted in, but will study it in detail if such laws become necessary in the future, a minister appears to have indicated.

Datuk Takiyuddin Hassan, a minister in the Prime Minister’s Department who is in charge of Parliament and laws, cited the Federal Constitution as well as the country’s top court’s past decisions in cases relating to the Kelantan and Sabah state legislative assemblies.

“At this time, the Government is of the view that every citizen is guaranteed the right to freedom of association in line with Article 10(1)(c) of the Federal Constitution where this right to form association was also discussed in the Supreme Court’s decisions in the case of Dewan Undangan Negeri Kelantan & Anor v Nordin bin Salleh & Anor [1992] 1 CLJ 343 and the case of Tun Datu Haji Mustapha bin Datu Harun v. State Legislative Assembly of Sabah & Anor (No. 1, No. 2 and No. 3) 1993 [1 MLJ 26], [1 CLJ 86] and [3 CLJ 546].

“However, if the Government is of the view that there is a need to draft this party-hopping laws in the future, detailed studies would certainly be carried out, including by comparing best practices with other countries,” he said in a brief two-paragraph written parliamentary reply yesterday.

The Supreme Court has since been renamed as the Federal Court.

Takiyuddin, who was also practising as a lawyer before becoming a minister, gave the same written response to two MPs who asked similar and related questions in the Dewan Rakyat to the prime minister.

Parti Amanah Negara’s Shah Alam MP Khalid Abd Samad had asked the prime minister to state the government’s views on whether to introduce an anti-party hopping law to prevent a repeat of the phenomenon of political instability in the country.

Parti Pejuang Tanah Air’s Jerlun MP Datuk Seri Mukhriz Mahathir had asked the prime minister to state why a new law cannot be drafted to block an elected representative either at the Parliament or state legislative assembly level, from hopping to other political parties without having their seats vacated and contested again through a by-election.

A check by Malay Mail showed that Article 10(1)(c) of the Federal Constitution states that “all citizens have the right to form associations”, while Article 10(2)(c) provides that Parliament may through law impose restrictions on the right to form associations if Parliament deems such restrictions to be necessary or expedient in the interest of public order, morality or the country’s security or security of any part of Malaysia.

Article 10(3) of the Federal Constitution also stated that restrictions on the right to form associations may also be imposed by any law relating to labour or education.

While the right to form associations is not defined in the Federal Constitution, it generally includes the freedom of a person to form and join groups of their own choice, such as trade unions.  

In Malaysia, changes in state governments have occurred multiple times without an election as elected lawmakers change political allegiances or switch sides or turn independent, as seen this year when the Pakatan Harapan coalition lost half of the states under its rule to defections.

At the federal government level, a brief political crisis was sparked when the Pakatan Harapan administration collapsed in February after some MPs among its allies ditched the coalition to form a new coalition, resulting in a change of leadership to the current Perikatan Nasional administration and a new prime minister installed without the country going through an election.

In August, MPs from both the ruling coalition and the federal opposition announced the formation of a bipartisan parliamentary caucus to reform the country’s electoral system and address issues such as finding a solution to stop party-hopping among elected lawmakers.

The bipartisan caucus is chaired by Umno’s Padang Rengas MP Datuk Seri Mohamed Nazri Abdul Aziz, who is both a trained lawyer and former de facto law minister.

In September, Nazri said the parliamentary whips of all political parties have agreed in principle to push for an amendment to the Election Commission Act 1957 to enforce a party-list system where voters would elect parties instead of individuals, as a solution to end party-hopping.

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