December 26, 2018.
Recollections & Reflections – A commentary
ONE issue which keeps on appearing as a subject of much talk since the May general elections is that which involves party hopping by elected representative and the declared intention of most of these deserters to join Pribumi Bersatu, one of four parties in the federal ruling coalition of Pakatan Harapan.
It tends to become more contentious because the desertions have been from Umno, the dominant party in the Barisan Nasional coalition that was thrown out in the elections, with the main reason being what was seen by many voters to be an administration led by the corrupt and which tolerated and maybe even showed the way to corruption in the civil service.
Public opinion widely shows contempt for any attempt by these Umno/BN MPs who have abandoned a tilting ship and conveniently hoped to hitch a ride on the Pakatan bandwagon. Strongly against too are politicians from the three other Pakatan coalition members, although one or two leaders from a couple of the parties have shown a softer and more accommodating side by asking for understanding and acceptance if these political frogs are accepted by Pribumi Bersatu.
Although party hopping is not a new culture in Malaysian politics, no determined attempt has ever been made to introduce a law that puts a stop to a culture which many have described as a betrayal of the trust given by voters. The best Malaysians had hoped for was for the defectors to voluntarily vacate their seats to force a by-election to give constituents the opportunity to make their choice all over again.
But the idea of having an anti-party hopping law has gained traction since May 9, that fateful day which booted out BN and brought in Pakatan, with the latest suggestion coming from PKR’s Selayang MP William Leong. The lawyer from Ipoh who first won the seat in the 2008 elections has made a few suggestions on how the federal Constitution could be amended to make party hopping an offence.
Significantly Leong referred to a recent interview in which Pakatan chairman and Prime Minister Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad was reported to have said that he was in favour of a strong opposition and would not want a two-thirds majority in Parliament. This coincided with the position stated by acting Umno president Datuk Seri Mohamad Hasan that his party would restructure to prevent party hopping.
However Leong would do well to rewind the clock and study the statements by Mahathir, deputy prime minister Datuk Seri Wan Azizah (who until recent weeks was PKR president), new PKR president Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim and Amanah deputy president Datuk Seri Mujahid Yusof. By doing this Leong would probably end up getting just as confused as many Malaysians who have been asking what exactly is the firm position of leaders within Pakatan on party defections, especially Mahathir’s stand.
Take a look, for instance, at Mahathir had said earlier in December: “We are a democratic government, we believe in democracy, and democracy allows frogs to jump,” a rather impish Mahathir said, when asked when Pakatan would propose a law to prevent politicians who switch camps.apply to join Pribumi Bersatu to follow some other MPs and assemblymen who did crossover not long after the elections.
And a few others from Mahathir: Pakatan Harapan will not accept defectors from BN or Umno as registered members of the coalition.
Mahathir’s statement was a response to public outcry and refusal to accept party-hoppers from BN and Umno. He added that his party would respect the public’s wishes and not accept any of such membership applications.
And how about this one? Umno members will be accepted into Pakatan as long as they become independent candidates first, said Mahathir at a recent press conference.
Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr. Wan Azizah Wan Ismail also agreed with the idea as long as everyone is on the same page.
But what about new PKR president Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim? PKR will not open its doors to Umno deserters.
For good measure there is Mujahid’s recent statement which tells DAP, PKR, Amanah to accept Umno turncoats in Pribumi Bersatu.
Having these turncoats would make Pribumi Bersatu’s bargaining power within Pakatan stronger, although until now it doesn’t look likely that the numbers will multiply by so many times so as to help Pribumi Bersatu catch up with PKR and DAP.
It can be observed that party-hopping is something that doesn’t excite the two biggest parties in Pakatan.
There have also been contradictions regarding Pribumi Bersatu’s intention to have a presence in Sabah.
About a week ago Mahathir declared categorically that his party will not have a chapter there but now party president Tn Sri Muhyiddin Yassin has indicated that this may eventuate, depending on discussions with Sabah Chief Minister Datuk Seri Shafie Apdal.
Maybe Mahathir has had another change of mind, given that his party may be an attractive enough alternative for the five MPs from there who deserted Umno two weeks.