Amend Federal Constitution to prevent defection by MPs

William Leong

25 Dec 2018, 11:08 am

Updated a year ago


MP SPEAKS |  The Prime Minister, Tun Mahathir, in an interview, said he personally prefers a strong opposition and does not like a two-thirds majority in Parliament.  

After chairing his first supreme council meeting, acting president Mohamad Hasan proposed to restructure Umno to stem the tide of party defections. 

By these statements, the way is clear to change the laws to prevent defections by members of Parliament. There is bipartisan support to attain the two-thirds majority required to repeal Article 48(6) of the Federal Constitution and to substitute it with a new provision to provide for the seat to be deemed vacated upon an MP leaving the political party upon which he was elected.

There are two opposing views on anti-hopping laws. 

One strongly held view is that even in the first-past-the-post system of election, an MP who leaves the party on whose platform he was elected while holding on to the seat, has committed a fraud on the voters. Such an action is seen as making a mockery of the democratic process since it amounts to overturning the decision of the voters expressed at the general elections.

The opposing view is that the seat belongs to the voters, who want their representative to exercise his personal judgment on their behalf which means defecting if the representative believes that this is in the voters’ best interest. 

An often cited reason for defecting is that it is the party and not the elected representative which has changed its positions and policies. It is argued that by banning party defections it will increase the power of party bosses who are leading the party astray from its original objectives.

Whichever position one takes as to whether the seat belongs to the political party or the elected representative, there can be no argument that it belongs to the voters. Therefore, the only reasonable solution in a situation where the elected representative feels he has to leave his original party to join another or to be an independent, is to resign as an MP and stand in the ensuing by-election to allow his constituents to decide. 

This cannot, presently, be done because Article 48(6) of the Federal Constitution provides that an MP who resigns is disqualified from contesting for five years. Article 48(6) was inserted in the Federal Constitution in 1990 after Shahril Samad resigned as Umno MP and won the by-election as an independent.

Substitute Article 48(6)

It is time for new Malaysia to return the power to decide whether it is the party bosses or the elected representative that changed, back to the voters. This can be done by substituting Article 48(6) with a provision that provides as follows:

“The seat of a member of Parliament shall become vacant if he ceases to be a member of, or resigns from or is expelled from the political party for which he stood in the election.”

Pending the amendment, the Pakatan Harapan component parties must not allow the 17 defecting Umno or any other BN elected representatives to join their party. It is not whether they are corrupt or not but by accepting them as members or worse appointing them to be ministers or to be part of the government, this will betray the voters’ decision to reject BN. Such acceptance will violate the trust and mandate given to Pakatan Harapan:

a) It is against the principles set forth in the “Deklarasi Rakyat” in particular paragraph 37 that called on all Malaysians, irrespective of race, religion, politics, beliefs or party to save Malaysia through carrying out the necessary reforms by rejecting BN;

b) It betrays the trust given by the people to Harapan which stated philosophy and purpose (page 11 Harapan manifesto) is consistent with the concepts of Maqasid Syahriah (the Higher Objectives of the Syariah) to carry out a continuous agenda of reform guided by shared values such as knowledge, liberty, truth, social and economic justice, pride, civilisation, unity, merit-based society, democracy and justice for all; 

c) It is going against the very ground Harapan had called on the people to reject BN, which is that, although BN purportedly practice a political model called “consociationalism,” in reality it is one where BN’s political elites practice racial politics premised on dividing our society on racial lines to ensure the political elite is in power (Pillar 5 of the Harapan manifesto, page 102);

The people have given the mandate to Harapan to save Malaysia by uniting the nation to create an inclusive society and to maintain the harmony of a multi-racial and multi-religious Malaysia. 

It is now up to Pakatan Harapan to show that it has the political will to do so. Let this amendment to the Federal Constitution be a Christmas gift to save Malaysians from the anxiety that May 9 is not a false dawn. 

Let this amendment show Harapan’s resolve as a 2019 New Year resolution to make change a reality.

A Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all.

WILLIAM LEONG is the MP for Selayang.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

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