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Constitutional amendment tabled in Malaysian parliament to pave way for anti-party hopping law

Constitutional amendment tabled in Malaysian parliament to pave way for anti-party hopping law

A file picture of the Malaysian parliament (Photo: Bernama)

KUALA LUMPUR: An amendment to Malaysia’s Federal Constitution has been tabled in the parliament on Monday (Apr 11), the first step to enable an anti-party hopping law to come to fruition.   

When tabling the Bill at a special Lower House sitting, de facto law minister Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar proposed to add a new clause under Article 10 of the Federal Constitution to allow the enactment of federal laws to restrict the right to form associations in relation to membership in a political party by state and federal elected representatives. 

“This amendment will provide an enabling clause for a specific act on preventing defection by elected representatives to be enacted and approved in the parliament,” he said. 

A two-thirds majority is needed to pass the constitutional amendment.

However, voting on the constitutional amendment will only take place on a later date, as agreed by the opposition coalition Pakatan Harapan (PH) and Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob in a meeting on Monday morning. 

Mr Wan Junaidi said that the government and PH agreed on three points during the meeting, the first being refining the definition of defection. 

They also agreed to abolish a constitutional clause that disqualifies those who resigned as an MP from being a member of the House of Representatives again for five years. 

The third point is to formulate a specific law to prevent MPs from switching parties. 

“The matter will be submitted for the discussion and consideration of a select committee that will be appointed by this House,” Mr Wan Junaidi said.

More than 60 MPs would participate in the debate of the amendment. 

“DEMOCRATIC PRACTICES UNHEALTHY AND WORRYING”

Mr Wan Junaidi said commitment to the law has become a government priority, taking into account the recent political scenario that has seen parliamentarians switching parties. 

“This situation has caused a lot of debate and polemics among the public because it involves the mandate or trust of the people who elect representatives in parliament,” he said. 

Since the 2018 general election, there has been “political unrest” which has seen three prime ministers being appointed to the post and 39 parliamentarians switching political allegiances, the minister said. 

“This is a clear sign that our country’s democratic practices are unhealthy and at a worrying level,” he said. 

Mr Wan Junaidi added that the government had on Sunday agreed that a bipartisan select committee would be established to look into the enactment of the new law. 

He said the Bill was expected to be tabled in parliament in July on a date that would be decided by the prime minister. 

The Bill was supposed to have been tabled for first reading on March 24, the final day of the last parliament meeting but was deferred to Apr 11. 

It was decided last week that the Bill would not be tabled on Apr 11 following calls by the Cabinet for more studies to be done on the definition of “party hopping”.

In a statement on Monday, PH said that the amendment to Article 10 of the Federal Constitution on the freedom of association needs to be refined so that it is limited to the Anti-Party Hopping Bill only. 

It said that both sides agreed that the constitutional amendment and the Anti-Party Hopping Bill will be tabled and approved in a special session of parliament before the end of May. 

It added that the Bill is one of the key terms of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed between the government and PH last September.  

The proposed Bill would result in seats being declared vacant and re-elections if parliamentarians switched parties or was sacked from the party.

Mr Ismail Sabri was quoted as saying by the Star on Sunday that a target had been set for the Bill to be tabled during the parliament meeting in July, although this depended on the speed of the special committee.    

Source: CNA/rv(tx)

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