In thanking the MPs for passing the anti-hopping bill, Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob said that the bill was important to ensure long-term political stability in the country.
The anti-hopping bill will no doubt bring about some measure of political stability to the country but it has no bearing on the fundamental flaw that caused the political instability that followed the Sheraton Moves.
The country plunged into political instability the moment Bersatu president Muhyiddin Yassin took Bersatu out of the legitimate, elected Pakatan Harapan (PH) coalition government after the then prime minister, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, resigned. When Tun resigned, PH was still the government but within a couple of hours, Muhyiddin pulled Bersatu out of PH. That was when the PH government fell, because it lost its majority when Bersatu pulled out of PH.
Muhyiddin then got his new alliance, Perikatan Nasional (PN), installed as the new government without facing a confidence vote in Parliament to prove his majority. There was no proof he had a majority and that was when the party-hopping began as politicians were enticed to join PN ostensibly to show a majority.
So, party-hopping was a consequence not the cause of the political instability that followed Tun’s resignation. The cause was Bersatu’s withdrawal from PH which felled the PH government — not the party-hopping.
While the anti-hopping bill enables political parties to stop their MPs from switching parties (which, perhaps, was the primary motive for mooting such a law), there is no guarantee that a coalition government will not fall in the future when one party decides to leave it and leave it without a majority.
Meanwhile, the current status quo in which an illegitimate and unelected government is supported by a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Opposition remains, with Sabri’s party, Umno, standing to gain most from the anti-hopping bill because its MPs won’t be able to leave it to join other parties. Umno becomes stronger because it will be the only Malay party with the most number of MPs and if it wins a good number of seats in the next general elections, other parties will have no choice but to negotiate with it to form a coalition.
On the other hand, if a law was passed to ensure that an unelected party or coalition faces a confidence/no-confidence vote in Parliament, the instability of the consequences of a minority government is eliminated. When the numbers are proven, party hopping will be irrelevant with only a few rare exceptions when MPs leave for their own reasons.
MPs need to demonstrate better judgement in prioritising the new laws or amendments that need to be addressed.
However, since a precedent has already been set, the anti-hopping law or any other law can be tabled again for further amendments. The Sabri government set a precedent when it tabled again the motion to extend the enforcement of Section 4(5) of the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012 (Sosma) for another five years from July 31 after it was rejected in the previous sitting of the Dewan Rakyat. The motion was passed in the current session.
It’s a dangerous precedent because it undermines and diminishes the significance, dignity and authority of the Dewan Rakyat. It reflects a government that does not respect the decisions made in Parliament and would use its position in government to bulldoze laws through Parliament until they get a majority to pass them. This is another example of abuse of power.
Since a precedent has been set, a subsequent government can overturn passed legislation. Why then have a Parliament? Do as you please as what is happening now.
Being an unelected illegitimate government, legitimised by an MoU, the Sabri government needs to ask itself on what constitutional authority it is acting. It’s unelected, so it does not have the mandate of the people. It’s illegitimate because it has not proven its majority, so it has no confidence to act on behalf of the people.
So, on whose authority are they introducing bills? Themselves? Apparently so. Its ministers are introducing laws that don’t seem to come from the people such as the Sosma amendment and the Tobacco and Smoking Control Bill. Do these laws help the people or the ministers to help produce results they are unable to achieve through proper, well-thought-through humane policies and campaigns? Instead, they want to produce results with punitive laws like a whip in the hand.
Sabri needs to understand that his government does not have the mandate of the people to introduce laws that affect the people. So, they should stop introducing such laws. The only authority the incumbent government currently has is to do according to the MoU.
The Sabri government may claim they have the support of the majority of Malays and therefore the majority — as the Malays are a majority — as represented by the number of Malay MPs on its side. The truth is that that is a misnomer.
Most of the Malay parliamentary constituencies are in the rural areas which at one time held the majority of Malays and hence a large number of constituencies in that region to ensure that the Malays are adequately represented in government. That demographic has changed and the 2020 census records that most of the Malays are now in the urban areas where they are not represented.
Although the Malay-majority Sabri and previous PN governments have a majority of Malay MPs, they represent only about 25% of the Malay population because according to the 2020 census 75% of the rural population has migrated to the urban areas. In other words, the current government represents a minority and it has no moral grounds to impose its minority concerns on the majority. That is tyranny.
Sabri is a lawyer, so he should understand the political conundrum he is in. A general election is the best solution to reset Malaysian politics and get back to following the constitution in installing a legitimate, elected government. Unfortunately, since Umno is led by leaders facing corruption charges in court, a general election could bring them back to power.
So, Sabri needs to think through rationally and carefully to choose the earliest date for a general election that would also ensure that corrupt leaders do not come back to power. It may seem like a tall order but a clever politician can find the right date for the next general election.