Govt allows extra day to table Anti-Party Hopping Law

Both parties have reached a consensus on several followup measures with regards to the bill ahead of its presentation in Parliament 

by ASILA JALIL / Pic by MUHD AMIN NAHARUL

THE special parliamentary meeting to table the bill to amend the Federal Constitution on Anti-Party Hopping has been extended for another day. 

In a joint press statement yesterday, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Parliament and Law) Datuk Seri Dr Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar and Political Stability and Transformation Steering Committee chairman Datuk Seri Saifuddin Nasution said both parties have reached a consensus on several follow-up measures with regards to the bill ahead of its presentation in Parliament. 

“Among the matters agreed by both parties is to support the amendment to the Federal Constitution involving enabling cause under Article 10 to give power for the enactment of a new act relating to the ban for Dewan Rakyat members to switch parties. 

“The initial draft will be distributed for scrutiny by the Political Stability and Transformation Steering Committee before the special parliamentary sitting on April 11, 2022,” they said. 

Both parties have also agreed to hold another special parliamentary sitting soon to table, debate and approve related laws, which will be announced by Prime Minister (PM) Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob in line with Standing Order 11 (3) of Dewan Rakyat and Dewan Negara. 

“The minister in the PM’s Department (Parliament and Law) also explained that the special parliamentary sitting scheduled for April 11 and 12, 2022, will proceed as planned to table and debate the Constitution (Amendment) Bill (No 3) 2022. 

“Both parties stated their commitment to support and enable this bill to receive a two-thirds majority in the special parliamentary sitting,” they added. 

The statement came after Wan Junaidi reportedly stated earlier that the tabling of the bill will be deferred after the cabinet could not reach a consensus and disagreed with the tabling of the bill. 

In the latest parliamentary sitting, Wan Junaidi had said the bill will be tabled in the august house on April 11. 

Many quarters have called for the bill to be tabled in the recent sitting but Wan Junaidi said the Cabinet has decided that the bill still requires further deliberation through engagement sessions with other stakeholders — particularly the Barisan Nasional and Perikatan Nasional — to ensure the amendments get their support in the Dewan Rakyat. 

The amendment is one of the main conditions in the memorandum of understanding (MoU) signed between the federal government and Pakatan Harapan leaders in September last year. 

The MoU is set to expire on July 31, 2022. 

Meanwhile, the Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections (Bersih) demanded the government to table a new and stronger Anti-Hopping Law (AHL) in the first week of the July parliamentary session. 

It said to avoid further delay, the bill for an Anti-Hoping Recall Law (AHRL) tabled by Pengerang MP Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said should be adopted for consultation and fine-tuning immediately. 

Bersih was disappointed with the Cabinet’s decision to U-turn the scheduled tabling of the AHL. 

Wan Junaidi said the current Anti-Hopping Bill has been sent back for more studies to be conducted on the definition of “party hopping”. 

“While we are of the view that an AHL must be passed without delay, Bersih has also consistently voiced our reservations about the AHL in its current form, as reported in various media,” Bersih said in a statement yesterday. 

It said AHL cannot prevent coalition hopping and will not be effective to stem such political instability and that party leaders may abuse AHL’s power by sacking rival lawmakers within their parties to vacate their seats. 

With the delay to further study the AHL, Bersih urged the signatories of the MoU to adopt the AHRL. 

“In this design, the seat of any lawmaker can be vacated on the three grounds of party-hopping 

covered by AHL, namely MPs leaving or getting expelled by party; independent MPs joining party; as well as coalition-hopping by parties which is not covered by AHL, if enough voters support a recall petition in 21 days. 

“The signature threshold we recommend is 40% or half of the turnout rate in the last election,” the coalition said. 

It added that by leaving the decision to voters, AHRL can overcome the two handicaps in the current proposed AHL. 

“In recognition that different parties and MPs in the government may have different views on the AHL or AHRL, we urge the PM to allow all government MPs to vote by conscience when the bill is eventually presented. 

“We believe that more than two-thirds majority of MPs would support the passing of any antihopping mechanism to restore political stability and sanity. 

“States must be given the freedom to explore and choose their preferred anti-hopping mechanism, which may be any variant of AHL or AHRL,” it added. 

To enable state-level AHL, Bersih suggested amendment to Article 10 to by-pass the 1992 Supreme Court verdict on Noordin Salleh that ruled the AHL unconstitutional to include the words “State Constitutions” to have the following effect: 

“Restrictions on the right to form associations conferred by paragraph (c) of Clause (1) relating to political parties may be imposed by this Constitution and State Constitutions.”