KUALA LUMPUR: The Constitution (Amendment) bill (No.3) 2022 and the Provision for the Prohibition of Members of Parliament (MPs) from Party-Hopping will send a clear message to all future party hoppers, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob said.
When tabling the bill in the House today, Ismail Sabri expressed confidence that the much-awaited Act, better known as the Anti-Party Hopping Law (AHL), would ensure long-term political stability in the country.
He said taking into account the various complaints and suggestions made by politicians and stakeholders, the government decided to do away with certain items included in the initial bill that was tabled for its first reading in April.
This includes politicians’ woes in the past few months where they said it would be unfair to define a sacked party member as a party hopper, which would result in providing too much power to party presidents.
After seven meetings held between April 15 and July 12 involving the special select committee in charge of the bill, which includes members of parliament from both political divides, as well as various stakeholders, Ismail Sabri said the government has set several parameters of the bill.
The first, he said, was that the Act would not be applicable retrospectively, meaning that it would only apply to party hoppers after the Act is gazetted.
“A one-step approach is taken in introducing the law to prohibit party hopping, which is to amend the Federal Constitution.
“A member of the Dewan Rakyat (DR) who exited a political party (that belongs) in a coalition, and then (he) joins another political party, either in the same coalition or otherwise, ceases to be a member of the DR.
“The membership of a DR member refers to the membership of a political party, either it is in a coalition or not.
“Aside from that, the membership of a DR member also refers to an MP who does not belong to any political party within a coalition but (the person) is a direct member of the coalition party,” he said in the Lower House.
Further, he said the usage of party symbol or coalition symbol would not be included in the bill as it aimed to focus on the activity of crossing the aisle.
For MPs who had initially contested under the ticket of a political party but later on decided to be an independent, the Prime Minister said such an act would be defined as party-hopping. As a result, he said the seat must be immediately vacated.
However, there are several situations that he said would be spared from the definition of party-hopping.
“A DR member will not cease to be a DR member if his or her political party is dissolved or deregistered.
“The removal of membership of a DR member from political parties when elected as the Speaker of the Dewan Rakyat does not cause him to cease from being an MP.
“The sacking of a DR member from his or her membership in a political party is excluded (from the definition of party-hopping).”
With all these in mind, Ismail Sabri said the government is set to include several key provisions in the bill such as providing the power to the Yang di-Pertuan Agong to allow him to set the effective date of the proposed Act in states with the consent of the Malay Rulers.
“In other words, this paragraph gives space to the state government and/or state legislative assembly to implement the provisions prohibiting members of the representative house from changing parties through amendments to the State Constitution, subject to the consent of the King or Yang di-Pertua Negeri.”
Also, he said members of the House who had hopped, would be allowed to re-contest in an election.
On what will happen to a constituency after its representative has hopped, Ismail Sabri said the seat must be vacated and an election must take place 60 days after the Dewan Rakyat Speaker sends a notification of unexpected vacancy to the Election Commission (EC). This would also apply to independent MPs.
Once adopted in states, the same would apply to state legislative assemblymen.
Another constitution amendment, he said, would be to redefine the words “political party” in Article 160 of the Federal Constitution.
“Paragraph Four (of the bill) aims to replace the financial implications of the bill since the inclusion of new Article 49A and the amendment of the Eighth Schedule to the Federal Constitution will involve additional spending by the government for election purposes for the EC to fill the vacancies of members of the DR and state assembly.”
The bill is scheduled to be debated today and tomorrow by at least 35 MPs.