Anti-hopping law might just be good for Sarawak

QUICK TAKE: Throughout Malaysia's political history, the ruling government did not have the will to enact the anti-hopping law to curb political defections.

Such a law, if put in place, would not benefit the ruling party anyway as defections happened more often in the opposition than in the party in power.

In fact, Barisan Nasional (BN) was responsible for bringing down the Sabah government in 1994 and the Perak government in 2009 through such defections.

In the case of Perak, the three state legislative representatives (two from PKR and one from DAP) did not even have to switch allegiance. All they did was to declare themselves independents to tilt the favour towards the state BN government.

After GE13 when BN only managed to pull through with a slim majority and Anwar was threatening a mass defection from BN to Pakatan Rakyat, the ruling government began mulling the possibility of enacting such a law.

How would enacting the anti-hopping law fit into Sarawak's picture?

Well, if by chance Pakatan Harapan took over the reins in Putrajaya and PKR and DAP began to spread its influence in the state, the law would be able to keep the Sarawak BN representatives (let's put it conservatively at 60) intact.

Hence Sarawak BN would not disintegrate overnight under such a scenario and would then be able to continue ruling the state either as a federal coalition or as an opposition.

Such a law will still not prevent elected representatives from vacating their seats and re-contesting under a new banner to test the waters, especially if they have strong political and financial backing. However, it can at least slow down the possibility of a mass defection.

Sarawak can enact its own anti-hopping law in the state legislative assembly if it wants to. The state BN has the numbers and provisions are available for such an amendment under Part II – Legislature of the Sarawak Constitution.

The main problem is whether the amendment will be recognised by the Supreme Court. If it is not recognised, especially by a new government, the Election Commission will certainly not come to Sarawak to conduct by-elections.

Sometime last year, Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Azalina Othman suggested to Putrajaya to enact the anti-hopping law to ensure that MPs were loyal to their parties so that the people's trust was not betrayed.

However, her suggestion was shot down by constitutional lawyers who referred to a 1992 Supreme Court ruling that crossing over to another political party was a freedom of association as provided for under the Federal Constitution.

Hence, Parliament must amend the constitution to bypass the 1992 court ruling.

Perhaps, between now and the next general election in 2018, Sarawak BN can persuade the prime minister to initiate the anti-hopping legislation in Parliament for the good of the country.

After all, political crossovers if left unchecked can cause untold damage to the country's political system.- The Ant Daily

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