PETALING JAYA: The anti-hopping law may have played out as an important factor in Umno’s decision to merely suspend elected representatives instead of giving an outright boot in what was deemed to be as the party’s great purge in recent times.
Two former MPs Khairy Jamaluddin and Tan Sri Noh Omar were sacked while Sembrong MP Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein was suspended from the party.
Political analysts believe that this may have been a strategic decision to keep the seats within Barisan Nasional and at the same time keeping detractors at arm’s length.
According to political analyst Dr Sivamurugan Pandian, elected representatives such as Hishammuddin were suspended as opposed to being sacked because Umno had to maintain the numbers in Parliament.
“Suspended leaders cannot leave the party and still keep their positions as it would be in breach of the anti-hopping law.
“However, if they are sacked, they get to keep their position as an elected representative and take it with them if they chose to join another party,’’ said Dr Sivamurugan.
Universiti Sains Malaysia senior lecturer Dr Azmil Mohd Tayeb said if MPs were sacked instead or suspended, they would have joined other parties.
“Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi keeps those seats within Umno while making himself the patron, instead of those suspended MPs. Sabah Umno leaders are part of unity the government and spared from the purging,” he said
“This mass cleaning allows Ahmad Zahid to solidify his position (as President) within the party and ensure his survival for at least this term,” he added.
Academic Prof Datuk Dr Ramlah Adam reckoned that suspending Hishammuddin was a strategy to warn him but still maintain him within the party fold due to his position as an elected representative.
“Umno cannot afford to lose any of their 26 seats in Parliament and suspension also gives Hishammuddin a chance to appeal and be forgiven for his alleged misdeeds.
“Maybe his suspension will be revoked by the party disciplinary board, if and when, he appeals,’’ said Dr Ramlah.
Independent political analyst Khoo Kay Peng said it is obvious that Umno would like to keep the seats as a status quo and keeping critics out of Umno is a first step for Ahmad Zahid to quell criticism against his leadership
“BN should be able to keep the seats because any by-elections now would not be in Umno's favour,” he said.
Singapore Institute of International Affairs senior fellow Dr Oh Ei Sun said the anti-hopping law stipulates that MPs fired by party will get to keep their seats.
Therefore, the decision to not sack MPs may have been made to ensure that Umno does not run afoul with the anti-hopping law. It will also ensure that it does not lose seats while those offending MPs “benefit” from being able to keep their seats if fired from party.
According to the anti-party hopping law passed in Parliament on July 28, MPs who defect from the party they represented as election candidates, or those who became independents, would have to vacate their seats.
However, MPs sacked by their party would not lose their seats and MPs who voted against their party’s wishes in Parliament would not be affected.
Besides Hishammuddin, former Umno information chief Shahril Hamdan, former youth exco member Datuk Dr Fathul Bari Mat Jahya, former Johor state exco member and Tebrau Umno division chief Datuk Maulizan Bujang and former Jempol MP Datuk Seri Mohd Salim Mohd Shariff were also suspended for six years.