Only four states have anti-hopping law for now

More to be done: Sarawak is one of the four states with its own anti-hopping laws. — ZULAZHAR SHEBLEE/The Star

PUTRAJAYA: Only four states will have anti-hopping laws in place to prevent state-elected representatives from switching parties if the general election is held before the year’s end, says Datuk Seri Dr Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar.

The four are Sarawak, Kelantan, Penang and Sabah, all of which have their own anti-hopping laws.

The Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department in charge of Parliament and Law said that all other states would have to change their own Constitutions to adopt the new law against hopping that was just passed by Parliament.

“The federal anti-hopping law only affects members of Parliament who switch parties. To prevent state assemblymen from jumping, each state needs to amend its own constitution.

“After the federal anti-hopping law is gazetted, the prime minister will formally write to all states to ask them to amend their constitutions.

“We will also have to conduct engagement sessions with the states and this will take time and more process. If the 15th General Election (GE15) is called early, then it is possible that only federal MPs and elected reps in the four states will be governed by anti-hopping laws,” said Wan Junaidi at his office here yesterday.

Previously, the four states with their own anti-hopping laws were not able to implement the legislation as a Supreme Court decision in 1992 ruled that it was against Article 10 of the Federal Constitution on freedom of association.

Wan Junaidi, however, said the decision was overruled on Aug 3 this year by the Federal Court, which means that state anti-hopping laws are no longer deemed unconstitutional.

But while states have their own right to decide whether to adopt federal laws, Wan Junaidi said in the case of the anti-hopping law, it would be better if they followed suit for the sake of uniformity.

He cited the recent case of Batu Lintang assemblyman See Chee How, who quit Parti Sarawak Bersatu (PSB) to become an independent MP, as a good example of where federal law and state law differed on how anti-hopping laws should work.

Under Article 17(7)(a) of the Sarawak state Constitution, an assemblyman who has given a written undertaking to the State Legislative Assembly that he will not resign from the party which he belonged to when he was elected, shall be disqualified as a rep.

“It seems that See will not be caught by the Sarawak state anti-hopping law.

“However, if he was an MP, he would lose his seat for resigning from his party to become an independent, under the Anti-Hopping law that Parliament just passed. So far, five states have indicated their willingness to amend their respective constitutions, namely Sabah, Selangor, Penang, Johor and Negri Sembilan.

Sarawak said it would study the federal laws before deciding on whether to adopt them.

The Dewan Rakyat passed the Constitution (Amendment) Bill (No. 3) 2022 on July 28 to prevent MPs from switching parties.

The constitutional amendments were subsequently approved by the Dewan Negara on Aug 9.

The amendment comprises four paragraphs and six clauses.

Among the amendments is a provision requiring MPs who defect from the political party they represented as an election candidate, or who become independent MPs, to vacate their seats.

Also affected is an independent MP who joins a party after the election.

MPs who lose their seats due to party hopping are not barred from contesting again for the seat or in future general elections.

However, there are exemptions for MPs who change political parties when their former parties have been deregistered or if they are appointed to become Speakers of the House.

MPs who are sacked from political parties will not lose their seats.

Also not affected by the law are MPs who vote against their party’s wishes.

Wan Junaidi said the federal anti-hop law against MPs switching parties was expected to come into force by mid-September.

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