Kuala Lumpur, 16 March 2021 –The Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (IDEAS) supports the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) in their call for politicians to report party-hopping bribes.
“The frequency of party hopping between political parties, especially post Sheraton Move is of serious concern and further erodes the public’s trust in government. MACC is rightly concerned with these developments and the possibility of bribery being involved,” comments Aira Azhari, Manager of the Democracy and Governance Unit of IDEAS.
“The act of switching parties in itself, however, should not be punished. Article 10 of the Federal Constitution guarantees Malaysians the freedom of association, which comprises the right to engage or participate in political parties or any associations, and this must be respected.”
“It is also important to acknowledge that not every individual who chooses to switch parties does so for the wrong reasons. Legitimate disagreement with party leadership is a normal process in a functioning democracy.”
“However, what should be punished is the act of bribery as a form of enticing politicians to leave their political parties, which remains a serious offence under Section 21 of the MACC Act, ‘bribery of officers of public body’, and must be thoroughly investigated. If this practice is normalised and goes unpunished, this becomes a norm for politicians to switch sides for personal monetary gain.”
Anti-hopping laws have been previously rejected by the Federal Court as it violates Article 10. An alternative mechanism that has been practised elsewhere, and which has been proposed by BERSIH 2.0, is to have recall elections. This mechanism allows voters in a constituency to withdraw their mandate in another election should they be unsatisfied with their current elected representatives. A by-election would be held to fill the vacancy, but BERSIH 2.0 proposes that the petition for recall must first collect sufficient signatures of registered voters.
Aira concluded, “IDEAS believes that adopting recall elections will empower Malaysians in decision-making processes so that the decision is returned to the electorate legitimately.
“In the meantime, civil society will continue holding our politicians accountable to their actions. Bribery and other forms of in-kind enticements should be called out at all instances to keep politicians in check.”
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