A former MP involved in the debate leading up to the passing of the anti-hopping law has torn into a claim by an ally of Umno president Ahmad Zahid Zahidi, who warned Barisan Nasional (BN) MPs that they could lose their seats if they do not toe the party line on the choice of prime minister.
This comes after Umno's Azalina Othman Said published a frequently asked questions (FAQ) document, claiming among others that MPs who do not vote according to the party president’s instructions will have to vacate their seats.
Azalina claimed that such a requirement was in accordance with Article 49A(1) of the recently added constitutional provision to prevent elected representatives from switching parties.
A parliamentary select committee report on the anti-hopping law however made it clear that any MP who diverges from the party line cannot be regarded as having switched sides.
"The committee agrees that the action of an MP in the Dewan Rakyat of voting contrary to the instructions of his political party (crossing the floor) is not considered as party hopping and he does not cease to be an MP," said the report by PSC sighted by MalaysiaNow.
"I am astonished that Azalina is unaware of this as she herself was a member of the select committee on the anti-hopping law which made this decision," the former MP said, adding that it was clear that MPs who do not vote according to party directions will not lose their seats under Article 49A.
"This select committee report was debated and accepted by the Dewan Rakyat. It is the speaker who will determine whether or not an MP has lost his seat, and the speaker is bound by the decision of the select committee," he added.
The FAQs prepared by Azalina also claimed that the anti-hopping law was aimed at component parties of a coalition, adding that quitting the coalition would mean them losing their seats.
"That is a ridiculous claim," the same MP told MalaysiaNow.
"Nowhere in Article 49A which deals with party hopping is there any such provision. Article 49A only deals with MPs leaving their political party. There is no mention of political coalitions at all.
"Any first-year law student would know that according to the laws of interpretation, you cannot interpret political party to mean political coalition."
He added that there was nothing to prevent a component party such as BN from throwing its support behind anyone to become the prime minister.
Azalina’s FAQs also appear to contradict her own statement on Nov 19, in which she said that Article 49A was "silent on political parties that decide to move from one bloc to another".
Azalina's FAQs are believed to be aimed at BN MPs who have been seen as defying Zahid over the choice of the next prime minister, as well component party MCA which has joined the chorus of calls for Zahid to step down.
Zahid, who is also the BN chairman, earlier warned the coalition's MPs that he had the final say on who they would vote for in the matter of forming the next government.
The Umno president, who is facing a rebellion following the party's thrashing at the recently concluded polls, was responding to reports that the majority of BN MPs would support Perikatan Nasional chairman Muhyiddin Yassin as prime minister.