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Switching rooms messes the house, democracy

Party defections appear to have been driven by anything but ideological differences or political conviction.

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It’s the hot season now in many parts of Malaysia but that does not necessarily deter political frogs from making the proverbial leap, to which they have given various justifications to serve as a stamp of legitimacy and respectability.

The Serom assembly member Faizul Amri Adnan, for one, seems to have had enough levity to reportedly liken his recent defection from Amanah to PKR to switching rooms within the same (Pakatan Harapan) house.

While switching parties across different political pacts is normally frowned upon, changing parties within a coalition does not make it any less wrong. As they say, what is good for the goose is also good for the gander.

In fact, to liken such a political shift to mere room-switching is a dangerous attempt at normalising it, which reinforces concerned Malaysians’ call for an anti-hopping law.

To use Faizul’s analogy, switching rooms may well disrupt the agreed arrangements of the entire family, with the grave prospects of causing inconvenience and anxiety. It may also weaken family bonds.

Besides, such a flippant attitude towards the shifting of political allegiance makes you wonder whether – at least in Faizul’s eyes – there really is a fundamental difference between Amanah and PKR in terms of ideology and policies.

If political allegiance is so fluid or malleable, what would discourage or stop a politician from moving to another house that offers better facilities and deals, so to speak?

This is because party-hopping in the country so far appears to have been driven largely by anything but ideological differences or political conviction.

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To jog the memory of Faizul and his ilk, we have already seen in recent times a cohort of politicians who “moved houses” to the effect that it disturbed the democratic process both at the federal and state levels.

Even during the PH administration, we witnessed an exodus of politicians from outside the ruling pact, particularly Umno, joining Bersatu, under the leadership of Dr Mahathir Mohamad (when it was still within the PH fold), in a conscious effort to enhance its numerical strength.

All this happened much to the chagrin of ordinary Malaysians who had just expressed their electoral preferences at the ballot box in the last general election.

It would not be a surprise if Faizul’s act of “switching rooms” has earned the wrath of many of his constituents, who, like other affected voters elsewhere in the country, felt their trip to the polling stations was a mere waste of time. Legitimate aspirations were also frustrated in the process.

If there is indeed a dire need for respectability and dignity in the country’s politics and among politicians, party-hopping must not be regarded as an easy option.

To stray off the beaten track, PKR lawmaker Natrah Ismail recently took a principled stand to keep to her reformist agenda when she spurned the enticement to switch parties in support of Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin.

This came in the wake of the defections on 28 January of two PKR MPs, Julau’s Larry Sng and Tebrau’s Steven Chong, who pledged their support for PN as independents.

To throw away integrity at the altar of political expediency surely is unbecoming of a select group of people whose supposed primary role, if not oath, is to serve the ordinary people to the best of their abilities.

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Those who feel more at ease about switching rooms or even houses may want to consider a permanent place. Some people might suggest political wilderness. – The Malaysian Insight

The views expressed in Aliran's media statements and the NGO statements we have endorsed reflect Aliran's official stand. Views and opinions expressed in other pieces published here do not necessarily reflect Aliran's official position.

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Dr Mustafa K Anuar, a longtime executive committee member and former honorary secretary of Aliran, is, co-editor of our newsletter. He obtained his PhD from City, University of London and is particularly interested in press freedom and freedom of expression issues. These days, he is a a senior journalist with an online media portal
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Khoo Soo Hay
Khoo Soo Hay
16 Mar 2021 8.31am

There are no political principles, only bank accounts. Leapfrogging in politics is one way of increasing your personal bank account. forget about your supporters who voted you in.

loyal malaysian
loyal malaysian
15 Mar 2021 11.47am

Xavier, escaped Mustafa’s roasting here.
But his actions … is as despicable.
Yes, Mustafa , I agree with you that frogs that changed rooms are as hideous as toads that jumped houses.
Yes, principled politicians like Natrah Ismail must be held as role models.

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