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No more political frogs? Malaysia’s anti-hopping law doesn’t stop parties from switching sides

The landmark legislation took effect on Oct 5, five days before caretaker prime minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob dissolved parliament and called an early election. 

No more political frogs? Malaysia’s anti-hopping law doesn’t stop parties from switching sides
With more than 900 candidates vying for 222 parliamentary seats at this general election, analysts said the splitting of votes is expected in a number of areas. (Photo: CNA/Gaya Chandramohan)

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia’s new anti-hopping law - which aims to discourage lawmakers from switching political parties - will not guarantee the country’s stability in the short-term, as it does not prevent an entire party from shifting their allegiances, said some observers. 

The landmark legislation took effect on Oct 5, just five days before caretaker prime minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob dissolved parliament and called an early election. 

Dr Oh Ei Sun, senior fellow at the Singapore Institute of International Affairs, said: “Political instability is often a price to pay for democratic transition. You might have, for example, previously Barisan Nasional (BN) ruling for a long time, and then there was a switch of government, and then switching back again. 

“I think you are likely to see, for example, alliances of convenience in order to form a ruling coalition in Malaysia for quite some time to come.”

With more than 900 candidates vying for 222 parliamentary seats at this general election, analysts said the splitting of votes is expected in a number of areas and the main coalitions are unlikely to achieve a simple majority.

Political parties on all sides have formed electoral pacts with one another to pool resources and avoid clashes. 

Observers are, however, unsure if these pacts will stay or whether new alliances will be forged after the polls. 

After all, the law considers coalition realignments to be permissible and does not prevent an entire party leaving one coalition for another.

DEFECTING POLITICIANS WILL LOSE SEATS

Changes to the federal constitution were made following the wave of defections that has greatly destabilised the country’s politics over the years.

In 2020, the infamous Sheraton move saw Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu) leaving the then-ruling Pakatan Harapan (PH) coalition.

This triggered the collapse of Malaysia’s short-lived PH government, less than two years after the 2018 general election. 

The anti-hopping provisions seek to condemn the betrayal of the trust of the electorate and usher in a healthier direction in Malaysian politics, said observers. 

Under the new law, politicians who switch parties will lose their seats, triggering a by-election. 

Mr Ibrahim Suffian, co-founder of research firm Merdeka Center, said: “There’s a great deal of dissatisfaction in how individual MPs and state assemblymen have changed parties after elections and so voters have, for the longest time, felt betrayed by the trust placed in these individuals. 

“So it does go some way in terms of assuaging voters, and by and large, people feel that it improves the prospects for stability in a government in the future.”

NO MORE POLITICAL FROGS?

It took more than a year of constant engagements with lawmakers, but the calls in parliament were loud and clear: No more political frogs.

Caretaker law minister Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar said: “Creating the law right from the very beginning for eight, nearly nine months of work, it almost drained me. 

“It’s not about the ability of the (Attorney General’s Chambers) to create the law, but the period of engagement with everybody, to convince everybody. Of course, not everybody is satisfied with everything, but it’s the best that we can produce.”

Source: CNA/ca(fk)
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