Anti-Hop and Kuan Yew’s far-sightedness
Published on: Sunday, September 05, 2021
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Kuan Yew: Gained two-thirds majority after implementing Anti-Hop law.
LET me start by referring to Yaw Shin Leong, the Treasurer, Central Executive Council (CEC) of the Workers’ Party (WP), a political party in Singapore.

In the May 2011 General Election (GE), he contested for the parliamentary seat of Hougang – a single member constituency (SMC). He won handsomely, defeating Desmond Choo Pey Ching of the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP) with 64.81 per cent of the votes.

Sometime in January 2012, rumours emerged of Yaw’s alleged extramarital affairs with a married woman. Following that, Yaw disappeared from public eye. He was a no-show at his Meet-the People-Session (MPS) and was reportedly absent from his town council office.

On February 7, 2012 Yaw resigned as Treasurer of WP. No reason was given for his resignation. Two days later, another woman was allegedly linked with Yaw.

On February 15, 2012 WP announced that it had expelled Yaw with immediate effect. At a press conference to announce the expulsion, party chief Low Thia Khiang said Yaw was expelled over his alleged affairs.

The decision was made because the party held that Yaw had fallen short of its expectations in being transparent and accountable to the party and to his constituents. Low also announced that WP was prepared for a by-election.

A by-election for expelling a sitting MP from his party? Yes, you read it right.

Article 46(2)(b) of the Republic’s Constitution says that the “seat of a Member of Parliament shall become vacant if he ceases to be a member of, or is expelled or resigns from, the political party for which he stood in the election.”

The provision was first inserted into the State of Singapore Constitution in 1963 after the state’s Legislative Assembly General Election 1963. The GE was PAP’s toughest election battle in its history and the campaign coincided with Singapore joining Malaysia on September 16, 1963.

Then Prime Minister, Lee Kuan Yew had called for the GE to seek a new mandate after the ruling PAP’s majority in the legislative assembly whittled to zero following a spate of defections of its assembly members.

The GE saw PAP regain its two-thirds majority in the assembly. Lee swiftly introduced an anti-party hopping provision into the state’s constitution. The Constitution of the State of Singapore 1963 was retained as the Constitution of the Republic of Singapore following independence in 1965.

So, Singapore has had an anti-party hopping law for more than 58 years now. In 2012 and during the lifetime of its founding father who introduced the anti-party hopping law – Lee Kuan Yew died at the age of 91 on March 23, 2015 – Singapore saw the law being enforced against a MP expelled from “the political party for which he stood in the election”.

Following Yaw’s expulsion from his party, Parliament Speaker duly declared the Hougang seat vacant, effective from the date of expulsion as required by the constitution.

After a protracted legal challenge, a by-election for the Hougang SMC was finally held on May 26, 2012. WP retained the seat, it’s candidate Png Eng Huat winning with 62.08 per cent of the votes. Slightly less than Yaw’s winning percentage in 2011, but a handsome win nevertheless. The seat has been WP’s stronghold since 1991.

So there you have it. If a parliamentary seat could fall vacant because its MP “had fallen short of expectations in being transparent and accountable to the party and to his constituents”, shouldn’t the same befall a MP who turned out to be a political frog?

How can such law be futile as argued by Mohd some? 

There is a long list of proponents of the law, past and present. One of them is a certain Art Harun, who in 2012 wrote:

“[W]hen a government can be changed by several elected representatives frog–jumping from an elected government to the opposition, the democratic process whereby our government is chosen and formed would be rendered a mockery.

“In the same breath, when a new government could be formed by an opposition, who has actually lost the election, by virtue of the frog–jumping acts, the whole foundation and premise of that new government is the betrayal of the people’s votes and choice.

“That would be a sad reflection of where we are, in terms of democratic process, in the 21st century.” https://www.malaysianbar.org.my/article/news/legal-and-general-news/memb...

Art then proposed that the Malaysian anti-party hopping law to either be passed by Parliament as a federal law or to take shape in the form of a constitutional provision, such as Article 46(2)(b) of the Singapore Constitution.

He wrote: “Anti–hopping law in the terms as contained in the Singapore provision above does not prohibit the elected representative from joining any party of his choice. Rather, it states the result or consequence of that action, namely, his seat is deemed to be vacated. The right to associate is there. It is just that once he chooses another party, he vacates his seat.

“Just as we would argue that we have the right to drive a car, the mere fact that there is a provision that we may lose our licence if we commit traffic offences too often does not mean that our right to drive has been unconstitutionally taken away.”

An anti-party hopping law as proposed by Art Harun and many like him, past and present, will not be unconstitutional. There is no futility in such law.

The time is now for a two-thirds bipartisan support from the Dewan Rakyat and Dewan Negara on constitutional amendments necessary for the law. As the Malay saying goes: “Hendak seribu daya, tak hendak seribu dalih”.


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