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Anti-party hopping laws to ensure political stability, prevent endless crisis: Malaysia PM Ismail Sabri

Anti-party hopping laws to ensure political stability, prevent endless crisis: Malaysia PM Ismail Sabri

House of Representatives in Malaysia's parliament. (File photo: Bernama)

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysian Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob tabled the anti-party hopping Bill for a second reading in parliament on Wednesday (Jul 27). 

In his speech explaining the proposed constitutional amendments, Mr Ismail Sabri said the government viewed party hopping seriously as it had given rise to debates and polemics among the public.

“This is because it involves the mandate or trust of the people who elect their representatives in the Lower House,” Mr Ismail Sabri said. 

The proposed legislative amendments send a clear message to MPs that they should uphold the principles of the parties they represent in order to protect the people's mandate, the prime minister said.  

The amendments are aimed at "ensuring political stability and preventing endless political crisis for the country", he said. 

The Bill, which is likely to be put to vote on Thursday, is a key point in the Memorandum of Understanding signed between Mr Ismail Sabri’s government and the opposition Pakatan Harapan (PH) coalition in September last year. 

De facto law minister Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar said previously that Malaysia’s democratic practices were unhealthy as 39 parliamentarians had switched political allegiances and three prime ministers had been appointed since the 2018 general election.

Malaysian Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob tabling the anti-party hopping Bill for second reading in parliament on Jul 27, 2022. (Photo courtesy of Prime Minister's Office)

If the Bill is passed, MPs have to vacate their seat if they quit or cease to become a member of their political party.

Those who stand in the election as independents will also lose their seat if they join a political party later. 

However, MPs who are fired from their parties do not have to vacate their seats. 

Mr Ismail Sabri said on Wednesday that the amendments will not be applied retrospectively.

He said 12 engagement sessions had been held between November 2021 and April 2022 for the drafting of the proposed constitutional amendments.  

The parliamentary select committee for the draft amendments, the prime minister added, had not only received written views and opinions from politicians, but also academics as well as non-governmental and civic society organisations. 

“It is my great hope that this Bill is supported and passed unanimously by the MPs. 

“This Bill is significant in the country’s history because it was produced through negotiation and discussion between the government and the opposition,” Mr Ismail Sabri said. 

DEFECTIONS ERODE CONFIDENCE IN POLITICAL SYSTEM: ANWAR

Mr Anwar Ibrahim, the leader of the opposition who was the first MP to debate the Bill, voiced his support for the Bill.

He noted that if the Bill was not presented in the parliament, the opposition would assume that the MOU between the government and PH is no longer valid. 

Mr Anwar said although the Bill presented on Wednesday did not wholly fulfil the requests of PH MPs in the previous meetings, the draft amendment was still a meaningful and historical start. 

“As we are aware, the issue of defections is not new, PAS (Parti Islam Se-Malaysia) MPs well remember that in 1961, defections resulted in the fall of the PAS government in Terengganu. 

“But this did not serve as a lesson, because the same party also later colluded and allowed the current situation to transpire,” he said. 

Mr Anwar said with the amendment, the opposition wanted to push the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission to investigate cases where party hopping was linked to bribery and promises for positions and money. 

The opposition leader also said such defections had eroded confidence in politicians and the political system, especially among youths.

“They will assume that no matter who you vote for, they can be bought. 

“We should work to recover the belief in the political system,” Mr Anwar added.

Source: CNA/vt(tx)

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