NOVEMBER 23 — ‘Give back our seat’ is a common cry in Australia when a Member of Parliament (MP) chooses to quit the party on whose platform he or she was elected while retaining his or her seat in Parliament. To hold on to the seat while joining another party or being an independent is seen as ‘little short of a fraud upon the voters’ as such an action is seen as impairing democracy in that the decision of voters as expressed at a democratic election has been overturned [See Sarah MIskin, ‘Politician Overboard: Jumping the Party Ship’ (Research Paper No. 4 2002-03)]
‘Take back our seat’ must have been the cry in Melaka as all three former state assemblymen — Datuk Seri Idris Haron (Sungai Udang), Datuk Nor Azman Hassan (Pantai Kundor) and Datuk Norhizam Hassan Baktee (Pengkalan Batu) — lost their seat at the Melaka State Election (PRN) on Saturday. The three had caused the collapse of the Melaka state government on Oct 4.
And after its big win the Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition, which swept 21 out of 28 seats in the PRN, intimated their intention to enact an anti-party hopping law when the state legislative assembly convenes.
Its chairman Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said the proposed law is needed to ensure the political stability of the state’s future ruling coalition, in a reminder that the just-ended state election was triggered by four assemblymen who switched allegiances in October.
“In the first state assembly meeting, BN will be proposing an anti-hopping enactment to curb the issue of allegiance switching among assemblymen,” Ahmad Zahid said.
The question is, how will BN propose to enact the anti-hopping law?
I have written earlier that the Constitution of the Republic of Singapore has a simple provision on it. Article 46(2)(b) states that the “seat of a Member of Parliament shall become vacant if he ceases to be a member of, or is expelled or resigns from, the political party for which he stood in the election.”
The provision was first inserted into the State of Singapore Constitution in 1963 after the state’s Legislative Assembly General Election (GE) 1963. That GE was the toughest election battle that the ruling party, the People’s Action Party (PAP) had faced in its history and the campaign coincided with Singapore joining Malaysia in September 1963.
Prime minister Lee Kuan Yew had called for the GE to seek a new mandate after the PAP’s majority in the legislative assembly whittled to zero following a spate of defections of its assembly members.
The GE saw PAP regain its two-thirds majority in the assembly. Lee swiftly introduced an anti-party hopping provision into the state’s constitution. The GE saw PAP regain its two-thirds majority in the assembly. Lee swiftly introduced an anti-party hopping provision into the state’s constitution.
Almost fifty years later, in November 2012, Penang took the same historical step of introducing an anti -party hopping law into the state’s constitution. Article 14A(1) states that “a member of the Legislative Assembly shall vacate his seat if —
(a) having been elected as a candidate of a political party, he resigns or is expelled from, or ceases for any reason whatsoever to be a member of that party; or
(b) having been elected otherwise than as a candidate of a political party, he joins a political party.”
Will Datuk Seri Sulaiman Md Ali, who was sworn in as Melaka’s 13th Chief Minister early Sunday morning, table an amendment to the state’s constitution like Singapore in 1963 and Penang in 2012?
Melaka, Penang and Singapore made up the Straits Settlements. Will Melaka join the two former British settlements in the Straits named after it and have an anti-hopping law?
Or, if you like it, will the state be the third Musketeer?