As a strong proponent of the anti-hopping law (AHL), I am disheartened at the Cabinet’s decision to postpone the tabling of the AHL in this parliamentary session. As I attempt to understand the Cabinet’s concerns, a few questions beg to be answered.
1. With the commitment to introducing the AHL deriving from the bipartisan memorandum of understanding (MoU), would it not mean that the canvassing of support would be obtained as agreed and arranged in a manner similar to the passing of the MA63 (Malaysia Agreement 1963) constitutional amendment with a large majority mandate from MPs?
2. Isn’t the AHL considered as a promissory guarantee of elected representatives to voters during an election? Isn’t the rakyat our main stakeholders, and not the politicians themselves?
3. Wouldn’t a recall law be the best remedy for the government as a legal and conscious commitment to voters?
4. This is my personal view as the MP for Pengerang and a voter:
4.1. To see the implementation of a recall law as a better remedy system as a further refinement of the presently deliberated AHL. The presently deliberated AHL has a few lacunas and will not suitably address the following instances:
• MPs of a party which alongside the party migrate from one coalition to another coalition,
• MPs of a migrated party who choose to leave the migrated party to remain in the initial coalition,
• Independent MPs who choose to join a political party,
• MPs of a political party who leave a political party to be independent MPs, and
• MPs who are ousted by their political party by design or by force.
4.2. In a recall law, the voters themselves will be the ones who will decide whether the crossing of the floor by an MP, whether from one party to the another, from one coalition to the next or departure to be an independent MP is justifiable in their eyes.
4.3. If one is concerned that it will lead to vexatious and frivolous attempts to oust an MP, one need not worry. An initial petition, with a prerequisite minimum number of voters’ signatures from the constituency, will first be collected before a recall process can be initiated. Only in a recall process will the voters of a constituency determine whether the MP concerned should vacate his or her seat. Only upon vacating his or her seat after a successful recall will a by-election be called for.
4.4. This will certainly resolve the quandary the law minister is in at present to define what constitutes party-hopping.
4.5. If there are any reservations one would have about the recall law, I am proposing here, it would be the question of the cost for the Election Commission. The recall law here encompasses a three-stage process, which invariably will cost more than the single-stage mechanism found in a conventional AHL. We must however take cognisance of the obligations the government of the day has to implement an AHL, or in any similar form, as laid down in the bipartisan MoU. From the broader perspective, it is also vital for the nation to have an AHL in place before the 15th general election (GE15) to ensure that any post-GE15 formation of government will remain stable for the ordinary voters to get on with their lives.
By the way, Umno and Barisan Nasional have never supported the delay of the Bill not being tabled in this parliamentary session. Recent speeches by the deputy president and president during the four days of the Umno General Assembly showed enough consistency after the Melaka and Johor state elections that Umno supports the AHL and wants to see the end of the frogs colony and voters betrayal.
It is my hope that all political parties who prioritise the rights of voters openly support the AHL, consider the recall law and speak out regarding the delay. As elected representatives, we have been mandated by voters to uphold democracy, and in this aspect, our voices should be united.
Enough of the AHL hype. Enough of going back and forth in multiple “sesi libat urus”. The August House is the House of the People, not a sanctuary for frogs!
Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said is the Member of Parliament for Pengerang.