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Anti-hopping law crucial for stability

“In order to protect public interest and to ensure the country’s long-term stability, it would be better if the country could have a decisive outcome on the issue concerning party-hopping.

03 Mar 2021 / 09:06 H.

THE time has come for us to seriously consider a proposal of having a specific law to prevent any elected representative from jumping from one political party to another in order to protect the nation’s political stability, economic development and the country’s reputation.

More importantly, we need to maintain public trust and confidence in the democratic system we have and the elected representatives who were voted through the election process.

If we continue to allow such issues to prolong in the country, it would be very difficult to have long-term stability.

Instability can give rise to other problems which can severely affect everybody’s life.

Foreign investors will started to stop coming and investing in our country, thus affecting our economic performance and job opportunities for the people.

Unemployment numbers will increase and social problems will grow.

Legally speaking, party hopping is not illegal in the country. This is based on Article 10(1)(c) of the Federal Constitution, which clearly states that all citizens have the right to form associations, that is to join, not to join and leave any association.

In 1992, the Supreme Court (now Federal Court) had the opportunity to decide on this matter in the case of Dewan Undangan Negri Kelantan v Nordin Salleh [1992] 1 CLJ 343.

In this case, the main issue was whether an amendment to the Kelantan state constitution which prohibits party-hopping is inconsistent with Article 10(1)(c).

Article XXXIA of Part I of the Kelantan constitution provides that if any member of the legislative assembly who is a member of a political party resigns or is expelled from it, or for any reason whatsoever ceases to be a member of a political party, he shall cease to be a member of the legislative assembly and his seat shall become vacant.

The Supreme Court declared that such a law was invalid. While Article 10 of the Federal Constitution provides Malaysians with the freedom to join or leave any association, this right, like all other basic rights mentioned under this Article 10, is not absolute.

Article 10(2) and (3) of the Federal Constitution empowers Parliament to pass restrictions over the freedom of association if it is for the interest of national security, public order, morality, labour or education.

People might question that if the Federal Constitution allows restrictions on the freedom of association, why did the court rule in the case of Dewan Undangan Negri Kelantan v Nordin Salleh that the anti-hopping provisions in the Kelantan state constitution were unconstitutional?

This is because even though the freedom of association can be restricted, this can only be done by Parliament at the federal level, and not by the state legislative assembly at state level.

In short, only Parliament at the federal level can pass the anti-hopping law, namely, by way of amending the Federal Constitution itself. The states in the country have no power to pass such a law.

In order to protect public interest and to ensure the country’s long-term stability, it would be better if the country could have a decisive outcome on the issue concerning party-hopping. Party-hopping should be made illegal in the country.

Our own Federal Constitution through Article 10(2) and (3) allows us to create restriction over freedom of association itself which includes the creation of an anti-hopping law.

Why should we continue allowing elected representatives to jump from one political party to another if we are already aware of the damaging effects it can bring to society and our country?

By having a specific law on the issue, a legal provision can be inserted in the law which requires any elected representative to immediately vacate their seat if they decide to jump from their political party to another thus giving back the mandate to the people to cast their vote again.

If we are able to create so many laws to regulate and control freedom of speech and expression among the people, why can’t we create a law which can regulate and control party-hopping by elected representatives?

Muzaffar Syah Mallow is a senior lecturer of Faculty of Syariah and Law at Universiti Sains Islam Malaysia (USIM). Comments: letters@thesundaily.com

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