The Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections (Bersih) congratulates the federal government and Pakatan Harapan (PH) on the passing of the long-overdue Constitutional (Amendment) (No 3) Bill 2022 (‘anti-hopping’ amendments) at the House of Representatives today.
The passing of this bill is testament to the success of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for transformation and political stability, where we witnessed politicians holding cross-party discussions and cooperating in a professional manner to bring our democracy a step forward.
Bersih also congratulates all the MPs who took part in the debate and the 209 MPs who voted to pass this bill. We hope the Senate will likewise unanimously pass the bill for royal assent.
The role of the law minister, Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar and members of the parliamentary select committee on anti-hopping amendments that he heads is pivotal and should be applauded.
The advocacy of NGOs like ours has been magnified by media organisations to make this reform a reality, and we are thankful for this partnership that contributed to the strengthening of our democracy.
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Nonetheless, the passing of the anti-hopping amendments should be regarded as the first step to ensure the enactment of new legislation that is more progressive, just and sustainable to face future political challenges. Bersih is of the view that there is still room for improvement for this bill.
Bersih has identified at least two shortcomings in this bill that should be addressed in the future.
The first is this bill does not address the issue of parties who change coalitions after an election. The Sheraton Move happened when Bersatu left PH and formed the Perikatan Nasional (PN) government with the support of Umno, Pas and Gabungan Parti Sarawak.
The second shortcoming is that MPs who have been sacked by their parties will not have their seats automatically vacated. With this exclusion, it would weaken the anti-hopping bill because MPs who betray their parties would not resign but wait to be sacked instead, so they can maintain their seats in Parliament.
Bersih reiterates that we still believe that the best mechanism to deal with the phenomenon of party-hopping is a recall law, where seats are not automatically vacated when an elected representative changes party. It is the MP’s voters who would decide whether he or she should vacate the seat. Such legislation would further empower voters to hold their elected representatives accountable, as the grounds for recall are not necessarily limited to party-hopping.
Even though we have the anti-hopping legislation, Bersih is cognisant that it will not have the full desired impact if voters still regard their elected representatives as social welfare officers instead of empowering them to be lawmakers in the House of Representatives. With such mindsets, ‘party hoppers’ who align themselves with the government will continue to win the by-elections because of the bigger allocations at their disposal for their voters.
As such, all parties including the government and the opposition, should seriously consider structural political reforms, such as providing equitable constituency development funds for all elected representatives, limiting the number of ministers and deputies, prohibiting all MPs from holding positions in government-linked companies, empowering and emancipating Parliament and state legislative assemblies, as well as reforming the office of the attorney general to halt selective prosecutions.
All these reforms and improvements are extremely important to accompany the constitutional amendments to deter party-hopping so that our country will be more stable, progressive and democratic. – Bersih