Malaysiakini Opinion

Party hopping must be stopped - now

P Gunasegaram  |  Published on  |  Modified on

QUESTION TIME | We did not win this election to let Mahathirism come back in different forms.

“Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men, even when they exercise influence and not authority; still more when you superadd the tendency of the certainty of corruption by authority.”

- Lord Acton

QUESTION TIME | The furore raised over PKR vice-president Rafizi Ramli’s statement that Dr Mahathir Mohamad bulldozed through the first round of cabinet appointments without consulting PKR is out of proportion to what he said. But it reflects one thing - we must always watch our leaders especially now when the problem of party hopping looms large and threatens to disrupt further the harmony within the ruling coalition.

Hopefully, with prime minister-in-waiting Anwar Ibrahim now stepping in to sort things out and relaying PKR’s concerns over the lack of consultation and adding that his comments were well-received by Mahathir has helped douse incendiary feelings.

"The statement that I made represented PKR's stance, it was not a personal statement. As I am the only senior (PKR) leader who will not join the government, therefore there is no conflict of interest, that was why I issued the statement," Rafizi said.

We don’t want leaders who do things without consultations, we want them to explain their actions and be fair in their selection of ministers. We want all parties in Harapan to be consulted on all matters of importance, including the formation of the cabinet, because that’s what coalitions do, especially when the coalition leader comes from a party with so few seats.

Next, should differences be publicised? Of course, we want to know if there are disagreements and we want to know when they are settled, especially when in the not-so-distant past the same actors on the stage said everything was fine until one of them was arrested at gunpoint and put in jail and charged for offences he did not commit.

The principle is this: if Mahathir is not consulting PKR, the largest party in the coalition, then he is violating the very basis of the formation of the coalition - consultation and consensus. Mahathir’s Bersatu is a minor party in the coalition. It’s not only about the rule of law but what was agreed.

Mahathir did not win this election by himself. In fact, if others need reminding - surely Mahathir doesn’t and is fully aware of that - his own party Bersatu won only 13 seats out of the 52 it contested - the largest number of seats in the peninsula contested by any party in the Harapan coalition.

At 25%, that’s the worst win rate of all the parties in the coalition (see table). The biggest party, PKR, because of popular demand surrendered the post of Harapan chairperson and prime minister-designate to Mahathir with the promise that when Anwar returned to the thick of things after he is pardoned, the latter would become prime minister. In return, they expect to see some concessions in terms of cabinet positions.

PKR won 67% of seats contested, including in Sabah and Sarawak, and this goes up to over 80% for the peninsula alone. DAP did extremely well with 89%.

It is easy to see why PKR is unhappy. Why is Mahathir putting Bersatu’s Muhiyiddin Yassin as home minister when that should have gone to PKR as a gesture to show the transition to Anwar goes smoothly. Home Affairs controls the police. Why does Bersatu with a mere 13 seats get two people on the top five cabinet list - PM, DPM, Finance, Home Affairs and Defence - and PKR, the largest, gets only DPM and no cabinet portfolio. DAP, without consultation and consensus, gets Finance and Amanah Defence.

Backpedalling

Meantime, the larger problem looms, that of party hopping. Mahathir has not said categorically that this will be disallowed, stating instead that each case will be assessed individually and decided, presumably by him. That is terribly, horribly worrisome because if the gates are opened, there could be a flood of MPs rushing into Harapan from mainly Umno which has 54 seats. Most of them are likely to go into Bersatu which is a party, like Umno, only Malays can join. Then you will have a Bersatu which is basically an Umno.

That has the potential of totally altering the balance of power through an unethical, morally indefensible practice which ought to have been banned a long time ago - party hopping. DAP actually took the lead in controlling this when they banned this for Penang as pointed out by Bukit Gelugor DAP MP Ramkarpal Singh.

"With the greatest of respect, the true reforms which Harapan needs to embark on in its quest to save Malaysia must exclude such BN representatives, as they were the very ones who condoned and supported the regime under former prime minister Najib Abdul Razak which Harapan finally toppled. Such BN representatives were complicit in the mismanagement of the country under BN, which is precisely why reforms are urgently needed now," he stressed.

That’s well put and the original members of the Harapan coalition - PKR, DAP and Amanah -  should impress upon Mahathir that this is a real no, no. They must be totally and completely united in this to prevail over Mahathir.

In fact, in Sabah there is a question over who is the chief minister because of party hopping. A priority should be to disallow party hopping through a change in the law. Otherwise, the will of the public through the polls will be disrupted again and again.

Another worrisome development is Mahathir backpedalling on his promise to get rid of the Anti-Fake News Act. Now he is talking about defining fake news in the new act. No, that’s not what he promised and the coalition partners must remind him of that. He must follow Harapan’s manifesto promises.

We did not win this election to let the old ways under Mahathir or Mahathirism come back in different forms, we want them gone forever. We must not be afraid to criticise even, and especially, if it is Mahathir if he does wrong. We have the right - if we did not have it before because of oppression, we have regained it now.

I can’t understand that torrent of comments in response to Rafizi’s statement to leave it to Mahathir to decide. No, no, no! Have they forgotten how we got into this mess in the first place? From now on, we must let it be known how we feel and we must dissect and discuss all government moves as part of the process of public transparency, accountability and governance.

Only then, will we not have another Najib - or a Mahathir of old.


P GUNASEGARAM hopes keyboard brigades will post their comments based on reason and persuasive arguments not personal, irrelevant, vicious, shameful, cowardly attacks hiding behind anonymity like a surprisingly large number of them did with Rafizi and Wong Chen.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

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