Lawyers group Lawyers for Liberty (LFL) today cautioned against a bill to prevent MPs from switching camps, saying the proposed constitutional amendment lacks any concrete definition and opens the door to abuse which would critically undermine parliamentary democracy.
In a statement, it added that tabling and passing the bill in Parliament would be an “unprecedented act of political hara-kiri” by MPs.
Acknowledging the many calls for an anti-party hopping law since the collapse of the Pakatan Harapan (PH) government in 2020, LFL said the bill for the proposed amendment for a new provision under Article 10 of the constitution to allow the enactment of such a law does not specifically address party hopping.
Instead, it said, it makes wide references to the party membership of MPs and state assemblymen.
“If the bill is passed, any government of the day could by simple majority enact laws that disqualify MPs on any technicality or grounds which would be particularly harmful to the opposition who would then be at the mercy of the majority,” it added.
On April 7, law minister Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar, who is the co-chair of a steering committee on the government’s MoU with PH, said plans for the anti-hopping law were still on, with an early draft of the act to be distributed before the April 11 parliamentary sitting.
He said amendments would also be tabled to introduce an enabling clause under Article 10 of the constitution, for a new act that would bar MPs from switching camps. The amendments, however, would need a two-thirds majority support from MPs.
MalaysiaNow previously reported that the bill could benefit the Umno court cluster which has been pressuring Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob to call for an early election.
The bill, aside from causing elected representatives to lose their seats if they switch party loyalties after being elected, could see those sacked from their parties losing their seats as well, even if the sackings were wrongful, unfair or done under controversial circumstances.
This is because a separate law gives political parties a blanket right when it comes to the expulsion of members.
“If this anti-hopping bill becomes a law and is gazetted, Zahid and Najib could kill two birds with one stone: first, cleansing the party of these anti-court cluster MPs and ministers, and as a result of that, causing Ismail’s government to fall due to these MPs losing their status,” said a source close to Johor Umno, referring to Umno president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi and former prime minister Najib Razak who lead the court cluster.
LFL said while stability in government was needed, it was also crucial to safeguard the independence of elected representatives.
“Anti-hopping laws would inevitably cause MPs to vote on party lines, despite their principles or the wants of their constituents for fear of repercussions to themselves,” it said.
“It is naive to imagine that MPs are not driven by a need to further their careers or be eligible for re-election.”
It also criticised political leaders who had called for the bill to be passed quickly and fine-tuned later.
“To tinker with the constitution or with freedom of association in that cavalier manner is irresponsible and a recipe for catastrophe,” it said.
Urging the government to retract the bill, it said the people should be the sole arbiter of the actions of their elected representatives at the poll box.
“Clearly, enacting anti-hopping law is not the panacea that people expect it to be. This dangerous proposed bill by the government should finally wake everyone up,” it said.
“We must not forsake democratic principles simply for the sake of chasing an elusive stability.”