JULY 28 — The passage Bill is to be welcomed. Democratic citizenry finds unacceptable i.e., an elected Member to Parliament who won on a party platform could switch his allegiance and defect to another party and yet suffer no consequence nor have to have his seat vacated enjoying privileges of being an MP.
The Anti Defection Act provides for additional constitutional ground for disqualification for membership of Parliament by introducing a new Article 48A. For the first time the Federal constitution gives express recognition that a member is elected as a member of political party. Hitherto Constitutions avoid reference to party political affiliation it strives to be neutral reflecting norms for proper constitutional governance and relying on political actors respecting conventions. Convention gives flesh to the bare bones of the constitutional8 text. Since the existing Article 48 was silent on party defections and the bane of party crossing has caused damage to the legitimacy and respect of the electorate the august Legislative Assembly it is right that the steps take so far by the Minister of Law in his herculean effort to draw up this Bill is to be lauded.
Art 48A rightly addressed that a member of a political party who was elected to Parliament “shall cease to be a member of the [ House of Representatives) and his seat “shall become vacant immediately” if such a member resigns his party membership or ceases to be a member. The language is mandatory and merely directory. Art 48A (2) provides exception to him being disqualified i.e., unless his cessation as member is result of dissolution or cancellation of the registration of the political party or if he was expelled by his party. The exceptions are also very apt and fair as his membership at Parliament ought not be impaired by unilateral actions not due to his defection.
Art 48A (4) is significant as it addresses the process upon which it is to be determined that a disqualifying event has occurred. It provides that whenever the Speaker receives a written notice from any member of the House of Representatives on the occurrence of a casual vacancy under Art 48A the “ Speaker shall establish that there is such a casual vacancy and notify the Election Commission accordingly within twenty one days from shall be held and the vacancy shall be filled within sixty days from the date the Election Commission received the written notice .Art48A(4) then mandates that a by election under Art 54 be held and the casual vacancy shall be filled within sixty days from date the Election Commission receives the notification .
This again is to be welcomed so that the democratic mandate by the electorate may be restored for that constituency.
A further matter of interest is the definition of political party under this Bill enlarged to include to include “ a coalition of such societies which has been registered under any federal law.” This is significant as again it breaks precedent of Constitution being silent on party affiliations and now extending even to a registered coalition.
The passage of this Anti Defection Bill in parliament today represents a healthy step to restoring sanity and stability to the august House of Representatives. The passage of this Amendment despite nay Sayers and cynics augurs well for maturing of parliamentary democracy and the Minister of Law and civil society who has mooted and nurture this passage is to be congratulated.
* Philip TN Koh (Adjunct Professor) (Universiti Malaya)
** This is the personal opinion of the writer or organisation and does not necessarily represent the views of Malay Mail.