One in two Malaysians are in favour of anti-party hopping laws, a survey conducted by The Centre for Governance and Political Studies (CENT-GPS) revealed.
About 50% of the 1,109 respondents in the nationwide survey said Malaysia should implement anti-party hopping laws. As many as 37% were unsure while the remaining 12% was not in favour of such laws.
Meanwhile, 53% attributed the current political crisis to MPs jumping to another party, 37% were unsure, while 10% of the respondents did not think that the current political crisis was a result of party-hopping.
“When asked what sort of punishment must be imposed on party-hoppers, 43% said the MP should not be allowed to contest in future elections while 34% said the MP should immediately lose his seat. Another 14% wanted the MP to be fined while 8% said the MP should be jailed,” CENT-GPS said.
Some 46% of the respondents said they had lost their interest in politics due to party-hopping, while 36% said they are beginning to lose interest.
More than 40 lawmakers, or 20% of the total number of MPs, have changed their party allegiance since the 14th general election on May 9, 2018.
States like Johor, Malacca, Kedah and Perak saw a change of state leadership due to party-hopping.
Cent-GPS said in proposing a legal solution, it prioritised two key considerations.
“The first was a fear that any law against party-hopping may be a ‘slippery slope’ for democracy in Malaysia as it impedes one’s freedom of association,” it said in a statement.
“The other consideration is the economy. Changes in party affiliation can change a government, especially now. This means instability, uncertainty and a potential change in national policy.
“We have already seen how this leads to lower foreign direct investment and overall loss of high-skill jobs in Malaysia.”
Cent-GPS has proposed a recall election system, which will allow voters to end an elected official’s period in office if 10% of voters petition for a re-election.
The process will include that a by-election be held in six months.
“The shortfall of this option is that a six-month period to collect signatures, and to decide on a by-election will not address government change,” the research firm said.
“Yes, it is a heavy deterrent for any MP intending to jump. But there is a grey area during this transition period on what that MP can do. Can that MP support a new coalition in time for a new government to be formed? Six months is a long time.
“While it is entirely democratic, we will likely still face a change in government due to party-hopping, regardless of this process.
“Moreover, even if the process succeeds and there is a by-election, we are still faced with the process of covering for an expensive by-election, one that will also take away the focus of leaders, as well as cause insecurity in investors coming into Malaysia.”
Cent-GPS said the six-month window may also lead to economic concerns and proposed a party list system as a solution.
Under this system, the party contesting in a general election will have to propose three names who will represent it in Parliament for the five-year period.
“Should the first representative die, decide to hop or change allegiance after winning the seat, the second name on the list will automatically become the MP for the constituency,” it said.
The research firm said this will eliminate the bargaining power of a parliamentary seat.
“It ensures that a government elected after a general election remains for the next five years, unless the party on a whole decides to support a different coalition,” it said.
“It emphasises stability and avoids expensive by-elections. This can be done by amending the current Election Act without amending Article 10 of the federal constitution.”
On the flipside, the party list system will make party leaders more powerful and lawmakers will not be able to protest their leaders’ decisions in any policy.
With guaranteed membership throughout a term, leaders may disregard or dismiss their members’ opinions. But MPs can still vote differently during parliamentary sittings.
However, party leaders will have to worry less about constantly losing support, giving them more time to focus on implementing long-term, high-impact, unpopular but necessary policies.
By keeping MPs in their original parties, this would prevent the big parties from gaining or winning a majority by luring members of smaller parties over. This would ultimately reduce corruption, said Gent-GPS.
Cent-GPS had worked closely with a bipartisan parliamentary caucus on anti-party hopping, led by Padang Rengas MP Nazri Abdul Aziz over the past few months.
Several public roundtables, consultations with legal firms and international academic bodies, as well as a nationwide survey were held. – TMI