A historic win for democracy today as Malaysia passes the anti-party hopping bill after years of grappling with the issue, which also contributed to the fall of the then Pakatan Harapan government in early 2020.
Dewan Rakyat Speaker Azhar Azizan Harun said there were 209 votes in favor and 11 absent, which meant the bill received more support than the necessary two-thirds majority for a constitutional change.
Malaysia has 220 members of parliament (MPs) in the lower house, and none of them voted against the anti-party hopping Bill while they were present today.
The law was passed after the third reading by de facto law minister Junaidi Wan Tuanku Jaafar.
Fifty-four MPs from the government and opposition participated in the two days of debate on the proposed constitutional amendment.
If lawmakers decide to switch parties, they risk losing their seats under the proposed legislation.
There will be exceptions made for MPs who are expelled from their party or whose party is disbanded or deregistered.
Also excluded from the law is an MP who is elected as the Dewan Rakyat Speaker.
The anti-party hopping bill is also one of the major terms of the memorandum of agreement (MoU) between the current government and the opposition, Pakatan Harapan.
In his closing remarks, Junaidi said the constitutional change proved that both government and opposition leaders could sit down at a table for negotiations and accomplish significant goals for Malaysians.
“This bill is not a 100 percent solution to all our problems, but a first step,” Wan Junaidi said when winding up the debate.
Between 2018 and 2019, Umno also suffered losses in parliament when 15 of its members in parliament switched parties and joined Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu) which was a component of the Pakatan Harapan administration at the time.
The law will open the door for political defection prohibitions to be included in the nation’s Federal Constitution.
Wan Junaidi had previously said that Malaysia’s democratic practices were unhealthy as 39 parliamentarians had switched political allegiances and three prime ministers had been appointed since the 2018 general election.
Party hopping has been a major issue in the country as it not only affects political parties but signals political instability that can harm a country’s democratic processes and affects people’s confidence in the democratic system.
One fine example was the downfall of Pakatan Harapan, which was triggered when one of its senior leaders, Muhyiddin Yassin, defected the party with thirty other MPs.
This bill brings with it hope for political stability that many Malaysians wish to see after the seemingly endless betrayal of their mandate by politicians.