KUALA LUMPUR, March 18 — The Malaysian Bar has called upon the federal government to enact laws against party hopping that it said could lead to voter apathy if left unchecked.
Its newly-appointed president AG Kalidas said unexplained defections and switching of political allegiances by elected representatives have greatly undermined Malaysians’ confidence in the voting process.
“Switching parties or political allegiance after being voted in on a particular platform, depending on the particular circumstances of the case, can be viewed as a betrayal of the voters’ decision,” he said in a statement.
Such actions clearly fall within the purview of the Parliament, where the power granted to it by the Federal Constitution should be invoked, he said.
“Legislative action is required on an urgent basis to discourage and restrict such behaviour. The Bar calls on the government to urgently consider enacting anti-hopping legislation that will restrict the ability of lawmakers from doing so.
“We have on several occasions, called for the urgent enactment of such laws as they are necessary to strengthen political stability and public confidence in the democratic process in the country,” Kalidas said.
He added that there is no prohibition for Parliament to legislate anti-hopping laws at the Federal level, as Article 10(2) of the Constitution provides that Parliament may by law impose restrictions as it deems necessary or expedient in the interest of the security of the Federation or any part thereof, public order or morality.
“Remedies to the issue of party-hopping may require amendments to the Constitution, in particular the removal of the disqualification provision in Article 48(6).
“This would be in order to allow for an MP to resign his or her seat and recontest under a different political party, and to allow voters to decide on the party change,” he said.
However it would be better to enact anti-hopping laws to curb the problem of crossing the floor in state assemblies or the federal Parliament, which Kalidas said should be the direction in which the country needs to move to and what all political leaders need to commit and work towards.
“The Bar calls upon the government and MPs to resolve this issue for the good of Malaysian democracy, notwithstanding any immediate benefit that one side or the other may enjoy by the perpetuation of this practice.
“A government that is sustained in power by party-hopping may also lose power by party-hopping,” he said.