The anti-hopping law and GE15

THE recently concluded 15th General Election (GE15) produced a result where no single political party or coalition managed to gain a simple majority of 112 seats in Parliament, hence we had a hung Parliament.

Pengerang MP and lawyer Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said yesterday shared an FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) to explain what role the anti-hopping law plays post-GE15.

Q What is the next step forward?

All political parties and coalitions that have secured seats have to attempt to negotiate a post-election coalition government to form a government and identify a prime minister candidate.

Q How to form a post-election coalition government and identify a prime minister candidate?

MPs from the various political parties and coalitions, upon negotiation, have to come together on a bloc basis with another political party and/ or coalition to collectively support the formation of a post-election coalition government and identify a prime minister candidate amongst themselves.

Q What are the means available to ensure MPs from respective political parties coalesce to support the formation of a post-election coalition government and identify a prime minister candidate?

The anti-hopping law enacted earlier in the year will ensure a coherence of discipline. Under the law, an MP from a political party has to vacate his seat if:

a) He resigns as a member of a political party.

b) He ceases to be a member of the political party. The mechanism of cessation of membership of a political party will ensure discipline.

Q How does it do so?

Political parties may and have devised a range of internal means to ensure MPs’ adherence to party directives, either through party constitutional amendments or through a set of agreements, to ensure MPs toe the party line on fundamental issues, which would include formation of the government and appointment of the prime minister.

Hence, any MP who refuses to toe the party line here will cease to be a member of the political party and have to vacate their seats in Parliament.

Q What means does Barisan Nasional have at its disposal to ensure and maintain party coherence and discipline?

Barisan has developed internal means to manage party discipline, especially amongst elected MPs. Prior to them receiving their watikah and nomination as Barisan candidates, they had signed a series of documents consisting of an offer letter, Statutory Declarations, Candidacy Agreement and an oath.

The collective implications of all the above mentioned documents are that:

a) All elected Barisan MPs have declared that any seats they contested and won belong to Barisan, and

b) The Barisan chairman has the sole prerogative to negotiate the formation of a post-election coalition government.

The respective Barisan MPs have also undertaken that they will cease to be a member of Barisan if they violate the coalition’s directives in which, under the operations of the anti-hopping law, they will lose their seat in Parliament.

Q Would this not be unconstitutional, for it violates freedom of association?

It would not be unconstitutional.

In the process of introducing the anti-hopping law, the lawmakers in the previous Parliament had also amended Article 10 of the Federal Constitution.

The amendment restricts MPs’ freedom of association subjected to the anti-hopping law. The implication here is that an MP is bound by party directive and no longer a “free agent.”

Q Is it permissible under the anti-hopping law for a party to migrate en bloc from one coalition to another, so any component party in an existing coalition may disagree with their political coalition on a post-election coalition or prime minister candidate and leave?

Yes, the anti-hopping law implicitly allows a political party to migrate en bloc from one coalition to another coalition.

However, one thing to bear in mind is that the anti-hopping law, in defining a political party, doesn’t differentiate between a political coalition and a component political party.

The implication here is that if an existing political coalition competed under one logo and presented one manifesto in GE15, and more importantly, if these candidates obtained their watikah to run in GE15 directly from the leader of their respective political coalitions, these coalitions for all intent and purposes are a political party under the anti-hopping law.

Thus, any component party which seeks to leave an existing political coalition as described above will have to vacate their seats, for they have defected from a political party.

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