There’ll never be an anti-hopping law, says analyst

Analyst James Chin says most MPs are unlikely to support a law preventing them from changing parties.

PETALING JAYA: A political analyst has voiced doubt that Parliament will ever pass a law to prevent party hopping even if Pakatan Harapan (PH) retakes Putrajaya.

James Chin of the University of Tasmania’s Asia Institute told FMT he believed most MPs would not support such legislation.

“The majority of them still think that there are circumstances when it’s alright to jump parties,” he said.

“I don’t think there’s enough political will at the very top of either PH or Perikatan Nasional to pass such a law.”

He noted that figures in PH had been calling for an anti-hopping law for some time, but said it would be difficult for the coalition to push for it since there was no clear agreement among its members.

He also pointed out that some parties relied on defectors to take power, citing the example of Warisan.

Warisan chief Shafie Apdal was sworn in as Sabah chief minister only after six Barisan Nasional assemblymen defected to his side.

Chin said several legal issues would have to be surmounted in enforcing an anti-hopping law and he mentioned the question of whether it infringes on an elected representative’s democratic right.

He noted that some states had not been able to prosecute their cases despite having enactments aimed at preventing assemblymen from changing parties.

“So even if you pass such a law, there are a lot of legal issues that may prevent you from enforcing it.”

Azmi Hassan of Universiti Teknologi Malaysia told FMT he would be against any anti-hopping law because it would violate the spirit of democracy by taking away a representative’s right to choose his political affiliation.

He said it would lead to a rigid political scene.

“What if a representative has lost his confidence in a political party’s leadership? In my opinion, that representative has all the right to change his allegiance to suit his political ideology.”

Azmi spoke of the issue of political funding as a matter that needed more urgent attention, saying political organisations could be financed by foreign entities without anyone being aware of it.

The indebtedness of local parties to foreign interests would make for a “precarious situation”, he added.

In March last year, Hanipa Maidin, who was then a deputy minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, ruled out enacting an anti-hopping law, saying any move compelling party hoppers to vacate their seats would be unconstitutional.

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