The Recall Election Bill should be called The Party Conformity Bill — Na’im Brundage

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SEPTEMBER 14 — The Recall Election Bill that will be debated in parliament has recently been expounded to be an improved version of the Anti-Hopping Law according to Azalina Othman, the leading proponent of the campaign against party hopping.

She claims that the Recall Election Act proposed can allay the fear for potential abuse by party leaders as the dismissal of parliamentarians will not be done automatically and instead will require voters’ participation by way of a recall petition.

At first glance, this is an excellent improvisation to ensure that the MPs will not be made subservient to their political party leaders. That is one of the main concerns that have been raised against the Anti-Hopping Law that was initially proposed.

However, upon scrutiny of the proposed Recall Election Act, it is obvious that the voter participation requirement by way of a recall petition is nothing more than a farce to make the Act appear slightly more palatable to MPs who will have the final decision as to vote for or against the proposed bill.

The main concern against the recall petition stipulated in this bill is that it will only require signatories of 1 per cent of the total eligible voter in a particular constituency. A parliamentary constituency such as Putrajaya with a total number of eligible voters of 27,306 then will only require 271 signatories to trigger a recall election.

This means that the amount of people that it would take to strip the parliamentarian from his position is equivalent to the number of people that you can fit in a single lecture hall. This clearly shows that the Recall Election Act proposed is not able to remedy the concern that it can be abused by political party leaderships as the number of signatories required to trigger a recall election is extraordinarily small.

To put into context, The United Kingdom’s Recall of MPs Act 2015 requires a minimum signatory of 10 per cent of the eligible registered voters in a particular parliamentary constituency to trigger a recall election. That is exactly 10 times the amount that is currently being proposed in this bill here in Malaysia.

Yang di-Pertuan Agong Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri'ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah delivers the royal address during the opening of the first meeting of the fourth term of the 14th Parliament in Kuala Lumpur September 13, 2021. — Bernama pic
Yang di-Pertuan Agong Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri'ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah delivers the royal address during the opening of the first meeting of the fourth term of the 14th Parliament in Kuala Lumpur September 13, 2021. — Bernama pic

This leaves room for potential abuse by party leaders to force conformity amongst parliamentarians and strip their right to have differing points of view on policy and political matters with their party leadership.

It is important to point out that since the Act will restrict all MPs from having a differing point of view with their party leaders. Even Prime Minister Ismail Sabri then may potentially be made subservient to his party President Zahid Hamidi.

The Prime Minister at any time may be stripped of his position as MP and Prime Minister if he is sacked by his party as his political opponents will only require 588 signatories of eligible Bera voters to trigger a recall election for the parliamentary constituency that has a total eligible voter of 58,711.

As rightly pointed out by New Zealand’s former Green MP Keith Locke when debating a similar bill in the county, he stated that the recall election bill is misnamed and should be called the Party Conformity Bill because it threatens MPs with ejection from Parliament if they don’t conform to party dictates.

MPs in Malaysia should thus exercise caution when deliberating this bill as it may have the negative consequences of robbing their ability to effectively function as representatives to their constituents.

The proposed Act will undoubtedly destroy the very foundation of the institution in which the democracy of the country rests and render Parliament as nothing more but a rubber-stamp for political party leaders.

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