By Zikri Kamarulzaman | Malaysiakini

A lawyer is sounding the alarm over the government’s planned anti-hopping law, which allegedly stifles democracy.

Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Parliament and Law) Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar has indicated the law would automatically trigger a by-election if an MP is sacked or leaves their party, or if an MP who won as an independent joins a party.

He told the senate today an MP whose seat was vacated via the law, however, will be allowed to contest in the by-election, compared to the current system where a disqualified MP can’t contest for five years.

New Sin Yew (above) told Malaysiakini his sources indicated the law’s provisions will be as described by Wan Junaidi.

He said there is allegedly no recourse for voters if an entire party changes sides.

The government is scheduled to table the anti-hopping law during a special Parliament sitting on April 11.

Reps will have to toe party line

Taking to Twitter last night, New warned there would be a major erosion in democracy if the proposed law in its alleged form comes to pass.

For example, the lawyer said MPs or state assemblypersons would find it hard to go against their party for fear of losing their seats.

They would have to toe the party line even if doing so would be detrimental to their constituents.

“This means that an MP or assemblyperson will in fact be representing the political party instead of his or her constituents.

“Representative democracy where an MP or assemblyperson represents us will be eroded.

“Political parties become more powerful at our expense through anti-party hopping laws,” he tweeted.

For example, he said Muar MP Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman and Simpang Renggam MP Maszlee Malik would have lost their seats after being sacked by BERSATU in 2020 under the proposed anti-party-hopping law.

The two were removed from BERSATU for insubordination when the party exited Pakatan Harapan and formed a new government with UMNO, PAS, and GPS during the Sheraton Move.

Consider the absurdity

New also gave a scenario where UMNO could sack Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob from the party to trigger a general election.

“Consider for a moment the absurdity of this, a political party having greater power than a Prime Minister or any elected representative,” he said.

Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob

When contacted, New also said voters would have no options available to them if the party they voted for decides to shift allegiances such as BERSATU did.

He added that though a sacked MP will be allowed to recontest in a by-election, it still penalised voters.

“The MP can run again but the constituency is penalised and may not agree with his or her sacking (in the first place),” he said.

New also said there will be an issue with party logos used in an election, such as when BERSATU and Harapan parties contested under the PKR logo in the 2018 general election (GE).

“If BERSATU used the PKR flag in the last GE, what happens then (if they switch sides)?” he said.

New is advocating for the public to reject anti-party-hopping laws by lobbying their respective MPs and assemblypersons.

He said they should instead lobby for recall elections — which would give voters the power to decide if there needs to be a by-election if an MP is sacked or leaves their party.

This can be done via a petition to the Election Commission, which can trigger a by-election if there is enough support from voters in a constituency.