GE15: Indie candidate’s move to join KDM before polling day raises questions over anti-hopping law

KOTA KINABALU: A little-known independent candidate in Sabah's interior Tenom seat for the 15th General Election will be creating a debate on the newly-enacted anti-hopping law if he wins in the general election.

Riduan Rubin's move to join Parti Kesejahteraan Demokratik Masyarakat (KDM) six days after filing his nomination papers as an Independent on Nov 5 has raised questions whether the anti-hopping law would apply to someone who crossed the floor before the Nov 19 polling day.

Legal experts argue that the law is silent over a representative who crosses the floor before the ballots are cast and is only effective after the winner has been declared.

ALSO READ: Anti-hopping law to be enforced before GE15

Political observers meanwhile insist that the law takes effect on the day the candidate files his nomination papers.

Riduan, whose father is the influential Gabungan Rakyat Sabah assemblyman for Kemabong Datuk Rubin Balang, is now being seen as a front-runner for the Tenom seat after he joined KDM led by Datuk Peter Anthony, whose nomination was rejected for the seat.

Riduan, who is using the symbol of an elephant, is up against incumbent Noorita Sual of Pakatan Harapan and Barisan Nasional's Jamawi Jaafar in the five-cornered contest.

Sabah Law Society (SLS) president Roger Chin believes that as Riduan was a registered member of KDM before election day, there was nothing in the anti-hopping law to disqualify him from being declared a KDM party MP if he wins.

Chin believes that Riduan can be considered a KDM MP if he wins without being subjected to anti-hopping law where he will be automatically disqualified.

Senior Sabah lawyer Datuk Ansari Abdullah also agreed that there was nothing in the current law to stop him joining a political party before he is elected. But if he is elected, his election is as an Independent and not a member of a political party.

ALSO READ: GRS' Rubin says son's decision to join KDM nothing to do with him

Sunway University's political scientist Prof Wong Chin Huat, however, argues that the candidate is elected based on the ballot as per nomination day.

Wong said under Article 49A(1)(b) of the anti-hopping law, anyone elected under a particular seat must vacate it if he leaves or joins another party.

"Having membership or without membership has to be ascertained based on the logo printed on the ballot paper that is determined on nomination day," he said.

As such, he said Riduan, if elected, has to remain an independent for the full term of Parliament.

Wong argued that by joining KDM midway through the general election, Riduan was setting himself up for the conditions for his seat to be declared vacant if he wins it.

"Hence, if Riduan is elected, a by-election will have to be held within 81 days from the day the new Parliament is convened," he said.

He believes that Anthony was taking in Riduan to hasten a by-election in the Tenom seat.

"This suggests a smart plot to cause a by-election to enable a new candidate to run after Anthony's nomination was rejected," he added.

The Sabah interior agricultural district hit the national spotlight on Nomination Day when police were forced to use tear gas to disperse Anthony's supporters trying to barge their way into the nomination centre.

Anthony later said that he will be filing an election petition over the rejection of his nomination papers.

Anthony, the Melalap assemblyman, is appealing a Kuala Lumpur Sessions Court decision earlier this year to fine him RM50,000 and a jail term of three years for corruption. He obtained a stay order of the conviction to contest the general election.

If Riduan wins, a legal challenge over his position in Parliament is likely to be challenged as many need the court to interpret if his crossover before polling day would be considered "legally" acceptable.

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