To Hop or Not To Hop?

Posted by M ws On Sunday, August 26, 2012 0 comments
When MPs Lajim Ukim of Beaufort and Wilfred Bumburing of Tuaran, quit their parties and formed new political groups which support Pakatan, they released a can of worms which festered the whole issue of party-hopping.

Recently, Penang CM Lim Guan Eng announced that his state government was planning to legislate against party-hopping to prevent "frogs and tadpoles" from breeding in Penang.

Article 48(6) of the Federal Constitution and sub-section 6 (5) Schedule Eight respectively stipulate that an MP or state assemblyman who resigned shall be disqualified from contesting as a member of the House of Representatives for a period of five years effective from the date of resignation.

Two-term Bukit Gelugor MP Karpal said one can never justify party hopping because it was a betrayal against the people’s mandate.

In the mean time, all is quiet on the Anwar front.

With such developments, I decided to find out for myself the different aspects of party-hopping that merit serious consideration.

According to The Star:

"A law against party-hopping will not be effective even if it is passed by the Penang government as it is unconstitutional, said lawyers. 
Veteran lawyer Datuk C.V. Prabhakaran said such a law went against a 1992 Supreme Court ruling. 
“You cannot pass a legislation restricting personal freedom. It is ultra vires. 
“The representatives are elected by the rakyat. What is the Chief Minister trying to do?” said Prabhakaran. 
He was commenting on a statement by Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng that the state government was planning to legislate against party-hopping to prevent “frogs and tadpoles” from breeding in Penang. 
On April 3, 1992, the then Supreme Court had ruled in the case of Dewan Undangan Negeri Kelantan v Nordin Salleh that the PAS-led Kelantan government's enactment outlawing party-hopping was unconstitutional. 
The court held that such a law contravened Article 10(1)(c) of the Federal Constitution as it affected one's right to the freedom of association. 
Another veteran lawyer, Datuk K. Kumaraendran, said that although the proposal was a good move, merely passing an anti-hopping Bill was “lip service”. 
All political parties, he said, should instead deter any act to entice members, which he described as being in “bad taste”. 
DAP chairman Karpal Singh, who had consistently supported an anti-party hopping stance, said passing such a law was “going to be a problem” as it had already been declared unconstitutional.

Pro Party-Hopping Views

1. If one is in a party that fails to satisfy its ideals, there is no reason that this person should be barred from aligning themselves to a different party.

2. If parties change their direction/ideals which are not in the best interests of the electorate, he/she has freedom to make another political choice of which party he should align himself.

3. Elected representatives cannot be so docile to follow their party like sheep following a shepherd dog when it is clear that the party does not have the interests of the electorate at heart.

4. An MP should be able to exercise their right to represent the electorate in the right manner regardless of the party affiliation as they should enjoy the freedom to associate or disassociate.

5. A change in an elected representative's personal convictions does not mean they have betrayed the voter’s mandate.

In the political sphere, allegiance-switching is a normal. Even Winston Churchill himself switched from Conservative to Liberal Parties. In Malaysia, it is probably more unacceptable as the decision of three elected representatives in a state led to a change of government - something which should only happen by ethical and/or legal means. While a person cannot be stopped from joining the party of their choice, the citizens of the country who have voted that particular person/group to power must be respected. If we are really concerned about party-hopping. instead of coming up with anti-hopping laws, the authorities should analyze why people want to hop and take steps to reduce this malaise. For instance, they should enforce or revise anti-corruption laws to ensure allegiance-switching occurs for rational/acceptable reasons and not for base reasons.

In countries that practise more mature democracies,  such a development is probably quite unacceptable. However, much confusion reigns here because there is a lack of maturity and understanding of the democratic process.

Anti-Hopping Views

1. When an elected representative party hops to another party, it appears he has betrayed the trust and mandate which the voters have given him.

2. Just as the House is divided along party lines, the Malaysian electorate vote along party lines with more confidence in the party than to the individual. Hence, they expect their elected representative to toe the party line in each and every subject matter.

3. If an elected representative decides to switch allegiance, he/she would be judged against the principles which he had projected.


4. If a candidate contemplates changing allegiance, he must refer to the people and get a fresh mandate via a by-election to establish credibility that the electorate has confidence in him as a person, and not in the party that he left.

5. In Malaysia, however, if candidate resigns, he/she can’t stand for election for 5 years. That was done for political convenience. Hence, what can he/she do?

6. One must seriously consider the reasons or the motive for hopping to avoid abuse - a problem which must be checked by making a firm and strong stand against party-hopping instead of siding this issue when it is to their advantage.

7. Sometimes, the electorate appear to tolerate party hopping of the wrong kind before/during elections.

8. If hopping is against principles, then there should not be any anti-hopping laws at all. It would be impossible to put in black and white when hopping is permissible and when it is not.

9. Logically, it seems impossible to regulate hopping because of the reasons why it occurs.

10. Hopping should not be condoned as it indicates there is a breakdown of the democratic process within Malaysia.

11. Party-hopping does not destroy democracy. Instead, it saves democracy from being destroyed by undemocratic parties. Therefore,  banning party-hopping does not strengthen party democracy. Hence political parties must work to strengthen party democracy first.

Checkpoint

1. The Federal Constitution enacted in 1957 allows for  freedom of association and the freedom of disassociation.

2. To qualify as a candidate for election, one must be an individual and you must not have certain disqualifying features. The Constitution does not mention political party and the legal premise is that when there is a vote done, one votes for the individual. That fact was aeality in 1957 and is still the same now.

3. Does the Constitution set any restriction for a candidate to switch allegiance?  Previously, if a candidate resigns,  there was no prohibition in the candidate contesting.

4. Things are different now. In the past, respect existed in so many facets of society. People respected  the rule of law, constitutionalism, the system as a whole etc. Hence, hopping was not an issue.

5. Think carefully. Where is the rakyat in the decision-making process of finding the answer of whether to hop and not to hop?


  • Is the rakyat at the heart of matter and of highest priority or does the reverse apply?
  • Do our views carry any weight or are we mere spectators of a plot unfolding before us?
  • Do systems that exist fulfil their functions or have their dysfunctional sides emerged till the candidate can take it no more? 


What is then is important - the process to justice and law or the outcome?

Those who want to hop must make it very clear to their constituents. It is not such an easy decision as some might think....

To hop or not to hop? Certainly, it goes way beyond the spectrum of hopping.

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