COMMENT | The Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections (Bersih) congratulates the federal government and Pakatan Harapan on the passing of the long-overdue Constitutional (Amendment) (No 3) Bill 2022 (Anti-Hopping Amendments) at the Dewan Rakyat yesterday.
The passing of this Bill is a testament to the success of the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for Transformation and Political Stability where we witnessed politicians holding cross-party discussions and cooperating in a professional manner to bring our democracy a step forward.
Bersoh also congratulates all the MPs who took part in the debate and the 209 MPs who voted to pass this Bill. We hope that the Dewan Negara will likewise unanimously pass the Bill for royal assent.
The role of Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Parliament and Law) Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar and members of the Parliamentary Select Committee on Anti-Hopping Amendments that he heads is pivotal and should be applauded.
The advocacy of NGOs like us has been magnified by media organisations to make this reform a reality and we are thankful for this partnership that contributed to the strengthening of our democracy.
Room for improvement
Nonetheless, the passing of the anti-hopping amendments should be regarded as the first step to ensure the enactment of new legislations that are more progressive, just and sustainable to face future political challenges. Bersih is of the view that there is still room for improvement in this Bill.
Bersih has identified at least two shortcomings in this Bill that should be addressed in the future.
The first is this Bill does not address the issue of parties who change coalitions after an election. The Sheraton Move happened when Bersatu left Harapan and formed the Perikatan Nasional (PN) government with the support of Umno, PAS and GPS.
The second shortcoming is the issue of MPs, who've been sacked by their parties, not getting their seats automatically vacated. With this exclusion, it would weaken the Bill because MPs who betray their parties would not resign but wait to be sacked instead, so they can maintain their seat in Parliament.
Bersih reiterates that we still believe the best mechanism to deal with the phenomenon of party-hopping is the recall law where seats are not automatically vacated when an elected representative changes party.
It is the MP's voters who would decide whether he/she should vacate the seat. Such legislation would further empower voters to hold their elected representatives accountable as the grounds for the recall are not necessarily limited to party-hopping.
Even though we have the anti-hopping legislation, Bersih is cognisant that it will not have the full desired impact if voters still regard their elected representatives as social welfare officers instead of empowering them to be lawmakers in the Dewan Rakyat.
With such mindsets, party hoppers who align themselves with the government will continue to win by-elections because of the bigger allocations at their disposal for their voters.
As such, all parties including the government and the opposition should seriously consider structural political reforms such as equitable Constituency Development Fund for all elected representatives, limiting the number of ministers and deputies, prohibiting all MPs from holding positions in government-Linked companies (GLC), empowering and emancipating the Parliament and state assemblies, as well as reforming the office of the attorney-general to halt selective prosecutions.
All these reforms and improvements are extremely important to accompany the constitutional amendments to deter party-hopping so that our country will be more stable, progressive and democratic.
The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.