Anti-party hopping law passed by Parliament or that is a Constitutional provision will not be unconstitutional ― Hafiz Hassan

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SEPTEMBER 1 ― I read Na’im Brundage’s diatribe against anti-party hopping law with interest.

One may agree with Na’im on his disagreement with Pengerang MP and former deputy speaker Azalina Othman Said, whom Naim referred to as “the leading proponent of the anti-hopping law this time.”

Azalina’s main argument is that party hopping is unprofessional and that it produces political instability.

Na’im considers this odd because Azalina was “part of the 15 Umno MPs who orchestrated the recent political crisis against the now ex-Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin from PPBM.”

Na’im further writes that Azalina’s three examples of party-hopping that would result in MPs losing their position as parliamentarians “leave room for abuse by either the leaders of the political parties or by the government of the day.”

But where is the unconstitutionality of such an anti-party hopping law?

Such a law may go against the very spirit of freedom imbued in the Constitution, as Na’im asserts, but freedom of association as guaranteed by Article 10(1)(c) of the Federal Constitution is not absolute. No freedom, for that matter, is absolute.

Article 10(2)(c) ― on restrictions against freedom of association ― says that Parliament may by law impose “such restrictions as it deems necessary or expedient in the interest of the security of the Federation or any part thereof, public order or morality.”

Clearly, the Federal Constitution allows Parliament ― and Parliament only ― to make a law which restricts freedom of association in the interest of security, public order or morality. If an anti-party hopping law is immoral, as Na’im argues, then that immorality is a ground for Parliament to make such a law.

In other words, an anti-party hopping law may be immoral but not unconstitutional, if made in accordance with the Constitution.

Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said speaking during a press conference in Seri Kembangan January 7, 2021. — Bernama pic
Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said speaking during a press conference in Seri Kembangan January 7, 2021. — Bernama pic

Azalina may currently be a leading proponent of such a law. But there have been many proponents in past years. One of them is a certain Art Harun, who in 2012 wrote:

“[W]hen a government can be changed by several elected representatives frog–jumping from an elected government to the opposition, the democratic process whereby our government is chosen and formed would be rendered a mockery. In the same breath, when a new government could be formed by an opposition, who has actually lost the election, by virtue of the frog–jumping acts, the whole foundation and premise of that new government is the betrayal of the people’s votes and choice.

“That would be a sad reflection of where we are, in terms of democratic process, in the 21st century.”

Art then proposed that the Malaysian anti-party hopping law to either be passed by Parliament as a federal law or to take shape in the form of a Constitutional provision, such as Article 46(2)(b) of the Singapore Constitution.

Art wrote:

“[Anti-party] hopping law in the terms as contained in the Singapore provision above does not prohibit the elected representative from joining any party of his choice. Rather, it states the result or consequence of that action, namely, his seat is deemed to be vacated. The right to associate is there. It is just that once he chooses another party, he vacates his seat.

“Just as we would argue that we have the right to drive a car, the mere fact that there is a provision that we may lose our licence if we commit traffic offences too often does not mean that our right to drive has been unconstitutionally taken away.”

An anti-party hopping law as proposed by Art Harun and many like him, past and present, will not be unconstitutional.

* This is the personal opinion of the writer and does not necessarily represent the views of Malay Mail.

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