PETALING JAYA: An academic has brushed off the need for anti-hopping laws, saying leaders are constitutionally free to form associations and be part of any political party.
Universiti Malaya’s Awang Azman Awang Pawi said party hopping centred more on the question of integrity and moral politics.
“Voters have to be smart to evaluate when the representatives they have given their trust to betray it by jumping to another party.
“But if that MP or state assemblyman continues to ensure the welfare and the well-being of the people he or she represents, this will be good for the constituency,” he told FMT.
Awang Azman was asked to comment on remarks by de facto law minister Liew Vui Keong, who said there were no plans yet to enact anti-hopping laws.
Liew cited a Federal Court case involving the Kelantan state assembly and Nordin Salleh in 1992, when PAS had its own anti-hopping rule. When Nordin, a PAS assemblyman, switched to Umno, the case went to court. The court said such a rule was void as it violated the freedom of association under Article 10 of the constitution.
Awang Azman said it was up to the people to decide if they wished to accept leaders who had hopped from one party to another.
“It is up to the people if they wish to punish the candidates by voting them out or keep them in the next general election.
“It is my view that there should not be anti-hopping laws. Political parties need to be able to celebrate that democracy, where leaders are free to form associations or political parties.”
Umno president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi had previously said legal action would be taken against members who jumped ship after the 14th general election, which saw the party suffer heavy losses.
But Awang dismissed this as nothing more than a political move, saying Umno was at its lowest and its party leaders felt the need to stop members from leaving.
He noted that any action to prevent elected representatives from hopping to another party was usually influenced by fears that the party would have fewer seats.
This, he said, could also result in the party losing its competitive edge in the future.
“Usually, party-hopping is done to enable the representatives to form a majority that will enable them to be in power. This move will cause older parties to struggle to stay afloat. Their power will be threatened and political instability will occur.
“For sure, those who are willing to jump ship will be seen as without principles and turning their backs (on their party), opportunistic and sulking for not being chosen to contest.
“Such people are easily taken in by offers, for fear of seeing their political career go down the drain.
“This is what I mean when I say, we need to look at the subject of party-hopping from the aspects of integrity and moral politics, not from the aspect of legislation that stifles democracy.”
He advised against using court action to prevent party-hopping, saying the Alliance, and later Barisan Nasional, had orchestrated many party-hopping moves since the 1959 general election.
He also cited the Perak constitutional crisis of 2009.
“There are times when Umno leaders suffer from memory loss. They forget what they have done before.”