The following article is submitted to the editorial of MalaysiaGazette by Political Commentator, Na’im Brundage.
The proposal for an Anti-Hopping Law has remained a contentious topic of late. For now, it seems that both the government and the opposition have yet to determine their official stance on the proposed bill. For a bill that requires a constitutional amendment, this potentially means that the proposed law is dead in the water even before it is brought for debates in parliament.
There are vocal MPs from the opposition side such as Fahmi Fadzil from PKR strongly supporting the proposal of the anti-hoping law as he is quoted recently saying “The absence of such a law could cause citizens to begin trivializing the country’s democratic process which could lead to further hazards or uprising.” It is worth noting that evidence of the purported uprising has remained scant since the statement was made. Fahmi Fadzil’s concerns towards the act of Anti-Hopping can be explained by paying close attention to the latest events concerning his party that had won 42 parliamentary seats during the last general election but see it reduced to only 35 seats as of the date this article is written.
Words of caution against party-hopping however were never uttered by him or his colleagues when his party accepted the membership forms of Larry Sng MP of Julau, Jugah Muyang MP of Lubok Antu, and P. Prabakaran MP of Batu. Not to forget the slew of Amanah state assemblymen that have more recently hopped into the party such as Senggarang assemblyman Khairuddin A. Rahim, Mahkota assemblyman Muhamad Said Jonit, Serom assemblyman Faizul Amri Adnan, Meru state assemblyman Mohd Fakhrulrazi Mohd Mokhtar, and Sabak assemblyman Ahmad Mustain Othman. It appears that hopping into the party is fine, but hopping out of it may cause an uprising.
Contrary to popular belief, not all political leaders in the opposition camp support the call for an Anti-Hopping law. Mahfuz Omar the deputy president of Amanah has been quoted stating his worry of the possibility of such regulations being abused to force support from lawmakers. “To me, this is a party issue. If a party embezzles (money), why would I want to support it?”. Mahfuz is unlikely to be alone in Amanah that is wary of the proposed law considering that the main founders of the party had hopped from their previous party PAS to form Amanah in 2016.
The same could probably be said about Pejuang whereby the party was only formed recently after 4 MPs hopped from Bersatu. It is unlikely that they will agree to support an anti-hopping law so soon after party-hopping themselves. The party chairman, Tun Mahathir Mohamad has previously been quoted saying “I think everywhere, people are allowed to move from one party to another if they feel dissatisfied with their party.”. This may be a glimpse of the party’s stance on the proposed bill if it is tabled in parliament.
There are also proponents for the Anti-Hopping Law on the government side of the aisle, such as Tuan Ibrahim Tuan Man, the deputy president of PAS. He has been quoted saying “There need to be laws related to party hopping. If not, it is not impossible that there will be a change of government but that this will repeat itself”. This is odd considering that he has benefitted personally from the act of party-hopping. He is currently holding the ministerial portfolio of environment and water due to MPs hopping into the new Perikatan Nasional coalition that his party is with.
PAS, however, has grounds to be wary of party hopping as the party have suffered greatly due to party-hopping in 2015 when 5 parliamentarians and 5 state assemblymen left the party to form Gerakan Harapan Baharu that eventually led to the formation of Amanah. The bitterness of this party hopping episode has surely yet to be forgotten by many PAS leaders who until today still disdain the formation of Amanah.
The sentiment calling for an Anti-Hopping Law is probably not shared by all leaders in PAS. Takiyuddin Hassan, the secretary-general of the party has previously dismissed the idea, speaking in parliament in the capacity of Minister in the Prime Minister Department in charge of Parliament and Law during Perikatan Nasional’s administration.
It is also very unlikely that the proposed anti-hopping law can garner support from Bersatu MPs, the party that arguably benefitted the most from parliamentarians hopping parties. A Malay-dominated party that won only 13 seats in the last general election but is currently in control of 31 seats in parliament. This is largely thanks to MPs hopping into the party from UMNO and PKR.
This takes us to the largest political party in UMNO, the party that won 54 seats during the last general election before being reduced to only 38 after mass defections. It is thus unsurprising that the MPs from UMNO are the most vocal to support the introduction of the anti-hopping law. Whether this sentiment is shared by all UMNO MPs however is still a question mark noting that the party is still split between the Zahid and Ismail Sabri camps.
In conclusion, the motivations behind support towards the anti-hopping law by parties such as UMNO & PKR can be explained by the fact that they have lost the most seats after the recent general election. The parties that have gained from the absence of party-hopping law such as Bersatu is unlikely to support it at this juncture. However, this may change if Bersatu at any moment sees a coming threat of losing their MPs due to defections. Parties such as Pejuang and Amanah are also unlikely to support the anti-hoping law as the founders have experienced firsthand being in the situation whereby they had to leave their party due to disagreements with their party leaders. The proposed anti-hopping law would not have made the formation of the 2 parties even possible.
It can be argued that the question of passing the anti-hopping law has yet to be finalized by both the leaders in the opposition and the government camp. As the passing of the anti-hopping law will require an amendment to the constitution, it would take at least two-thirds or more specifically 147 MPs to support the passing of it if the bill is debated in parliament. Considering that MPs from all sides of the aisle are still divided on the proposed law, this is a good sign that it might not see the light of day. What is confirmed however is that all of the respective political party’s stance on the proposed law has probably more to do with whether they think it will benefit their party’s political interest rather than the purported reason of wanting political stability or regaining the people’s faith in democracy.