‘RETURN our seat’ is a common cry in Australia when a Member of Parliament chooses to leave the party on whose platform he was elected while retaining his seat in Parliament.
Retaining the seat while joining another party or being independent is seen as “little less than voter fraud”, as such action is seen as undermining democracy as the decision of voters such that it was cast in a democratic election was overthrown [See Sarah MIskin, ‘Politician Overboard: Jumping the Party Ship’ (Research Paper No. 4 2002-03)]
“Take back our seat” must have been the cry in Malacca as the three former members of the State Assembly – Idris Haron (Sungai Udang), Nor Azman Hassan (Pantai Kundor) and Norhizam Hassan Baktee (Pengkalan Batu) lost their seat in the Malacca elections last Saturday. The three had caused the collapse of the state government on October 4.
And after its big victory, the Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition, which won 21 of the 28 seats in the election, announced its intention to enact an anti-shopping law when the state legislature was convened. .
Its president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said the proposed law is necessary to ensure the political stability of the future ruling coalition of the state, recalling that the state elections which have just ended were called by four members of the ‘Assembly who changed allegiance in October.
“At the first meeting of the state assembly, BN will propose an anti-party law to curb the problem of changing allegiance among members of the assembly,” Ahmad Zahid said.
The question is, how will BN propose to enact the anti-shopping law?
I wrote earlier that the Constitution of the Republic of Singapore contains a simple provision on this matter.
Article 46 (2) (b) states that “a deputy’s seat becomes vacant if he ceases to be a member, is expelled or resigns from the political party for which he stood for election”.
The provision was first inserted into the Constitution of the State of Singapore in 1963 after the general elections to the State Legislative Assembly (GE) in 1963.
This GE was the most difficult electoral battle the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP) has faced in its history and the campaign coincided with Singapore’s accession to Malaysia in September 1963.
Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew had called on the EG to seek a new term after the PAP majority in the legislature was reduced to zero following a series of defections of its members.
The GE saw the PAP regain its two-thirds majority in the assembly.
Lee quickly introduced an anti-party hopping provision in the state constitution.
Almost 50 years later, in November 2012, Penang took the same historic step by introducing an anti-shopping law into the state constitution.
Section 14A (1) states that “a member of the Legislative Assembly leaves his seat if –
a) having been elected a candidate of a political party, he resigns or is excluded from it or ceases for any reason whatsoever to be a member of that party; Where
b) having been elected other than as a candidate of a political party, he joins a political party.
Sulaiman Md Ali, who was sworn in as the 13th Chief Minister of Malacca early Sunday morning, will he table an amendment to the state constitution like Singapore in 1963 and Penang in 2012?
Malacca, Penang and Singapore made up the Straits Settlements. Will Malacca join the two former British colonies in the straits that bear her name and have an anti-shopping law?
Or, if you love him, will the state be the third musketeer? – November 24, 2021.
• Hafiz Hassan reads The Malaysian Insight.
* This is the opinion of the author or post and does not necessarily represent the views of The Malaysian Insight.