Enacting law to ensure govt stay in power good idea but needs further study, says Kitingan


KOTA KINABALU: The proposal to enact a law to ensure that a government remains in power for its full five-year term is good and positive, says Datuk Seri Dr Jeffrey Kitingan.

The Sabah Deputy Chief Minister said while this was a positive idea to prevent political instability, there were many questions surrounding its feasibility and implementation methods.

"How would this proposed act affect democracy in a situation of a hung Parliament and isn’t the existing anti-hopping law sufficient to ensure political stability?

“If there is a loophole in the anti-hopping law, why can't we address that first? Or look at the whole political system and learn from Indonesia, for example,” said Kitingan in response to Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi’s suggestion on Saturday (Jan 13).

He had said that if a party or a coalition managed to form a government and received the consent of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, then it should remain in power until the end of its term and a law to make sure of this should be enacted.

Kitingan, who is also Sabah STAR president, said in the case of Indonesia, they have legislation that addresses political party hopping, similar to Malaysia's anti-hopping law.

“In Malaysia, the anti-hopping law is designed to prevent elected representatives from switching political parties, a practice that can destabilise political systems and undermine democratic principles,” he said.

He said Indonesia's approach to this issue was outlined in the Law on Political Parties, particularly in Law No 2 of 2008 and its amendments that stipulates the rules and regulations governing political parties, including the conduct of party members and representatives.

Kitingan said it included provisions that address the status of members who switch parties, though the specific details and enforcement mechanisms may differ from those in Malaysia.

The Indonesian law tends to focus on the ethics and responsibilities of party members, including elected representatives, and provides a framework within which parties can manage internal discipline and loyalty, he said.

“Like Malaysia, the intent is to maintain political stability and integrity, though the exact measures and their implications can vary,” he said.

Kitingan said both countries' laws reflect a common concern in many democracies: the need to balance the rights of individual representatives with the stability and predictability of the political system.

However, the effectiveness and democratic implications of anti-hopping laws are often subjects of debate, particularly regarding how they intersect with the principles of individual freedom and representative democracy, he said.

In summary, like many parliamentary democracies, Indonesia relies on a process of coalition-building and negotiation to manage situations where no single party has a clear majority, he said.

“This process, while sometimes complex, is a key aspect of ensuring that the government can continue to function and represent a broad range of interests within the Indonesian political spectrum,” Kitingan added.

As for Ahmad Zahid’s proposal, globally, the concept of a government remaining in power until the next scheduled election is a fundamental aspect of many parliamentary democracies, he said.

“But it's usually more a matter of political convention and constitutional design rather than a specific "law" as such,” he said.

Kitingan said in countries with a stable parliamentary system, it's expected that the government (usually formed by the majority party or a coalition) will serve its full term, barring exceptional circumstances like a vote of no confidence, dissolution of parliament, or other political shifts.

However, there are a few mechanisms and provisions that can be seen as reinforcing this principle such as fixed-term parliaments, constitutional provisions, no-confidence votes and dissolution powers, he said.

He said the enforcement of these principles varies significantly based on each country's unique political and legal context.

Kitingan said in some nations, adherence to these norms is strict, while in others, political realities might lead to more frequent changes in government or early elections.

“It's important to note that while these mechanisms can encourage governments to serve full terms, they are balanced by other democratic principles that allow for flexibility and responsiveness to changing political circumstances,” he said.

“This balance is crucial for maintaining both stability and democratic accountability,” he added.

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